Yesterday in class we had a guest lecturer come to Curtin to demonstrate the effectiveness of puppetry in counselling. Although I was sceptical, I was surprised with how well puppets could convey emotion, encourage discussion and depersonalise really sensitive issues. She made it so much easier to talk about things like violence, negligence, bullying, drugs etc. And she really was a master of her art, with thirty-seven different characters with their own unique personalities and voices. They are an extension of herself in many ways, and she brings them to life in the most amazing ways. She was not only entertaining to watch, but wonderful to be around. Her eyes shone with exuberance and excitement, overflowing with happiness and positive energy. One of the things she said which really sticks out for me is that by having clear energy, you can see and create clearly. Murky sight or dull thoughts only hinder you in your journey with someone. And by golly was her energy clear.

Along with her she brought a few bags which I suspected (rightly so) contained puppets for us to use during the tutorial. My first instinct was to run- maybe I could skip the lecture or go home before the tutorial began? But my second instinct was to find out why I had that as my first instinct- what was I afraid of? I knew this to be one of those unique lessons in my educational experience that I could learn so much from if I just had the courage to try it- Yu is a Japanese principle that basically outlines that fear should never be a reason to stop you from doing a good action. So I did it. I reached into the bag, pulled out a polar bear and sat it on the desk in front of me. At first we just stared at each other and I laughed at myself for eyeballing a toy. But then I just shoved my arm up its arse, started working its jaws and instantly new its name was Polo.  So Polo and I got talking, after a little embarrassment. He was a shy kinda guy, little bit slow in speech and thought but a good kid overall. He was obese, you see, and got teased a lot at school. His parents were obese too so he didn’t think it was a problem, but he didn’t really have any good friends and wasn’t a very strong swimmer.

When it was time to put Polo down for a little while, I found myself playing with him. I couldn’t help it- it was stupid, I know, but I’d just pick him up and make him walk around or do tumbles. I kinda wished Willy (the wombat sitting next to us) was more talkative so we could interact a little more. It was so childish, to talk to a toy and have it talk back, but it was so liberating. To stop caring what the grownups thought of me and to just play. Man, that was a hard step to take, but I learnt something incredibly valuable and surprisingly deep: when you remove all the barriers you set up, you are pure creativity. It flows from you, and all you have to do is channel it to create something beautiful. And this is something children access so easily- something that adults can access too if they wanted. And I learned that understanding this and the way a child sees the world allows you to connect with that child in a profound way, and with that connection, create something indescribably beautiful.

Might bust out some of my old toys and have a tea party. They deserve it.

An Ideal Vision

I have had many arguments with my mother about how much I donate to charity. She feels she does not have enough money for the household (one of her great stressors), and I feel that if we have enough money to afford food, we have enough to share. And in these arguments, World Vision has always been my paragon of all charities. They make real and important change in the poorest and most desperate places around the world, providing essential aid and important infrastructure to destitute villages and starving children.
Today I was told that was a lie. Darlene, my darling colleague in my social work degree, told me that it doesn’t happen like they say in the information letters. Apparently, the class agrees that World Vision is a particulaly contentious organisation, playing on the ignorance of people through their advertising and seemingly earnest devotion to a good cause. What happens instead is that people fly first class jets, stay in 5-star hotels, drive around in Mercedes Benz with the World Vision logo on the side… In a first hand example, Darlene saw a village in Africa (where she comes from) where the chief bought school uniforms for the children and kept the rest of the money for himself, sending them to school without food.
As I said, I have always considered World Vision a paragon of charities. It has been my idealist dream of a not-for-profit organisation doing everything it could to make the world a better place in the neediest of places. And it turns out all those arguments, all the money I saved and donated, all those other charities I turned down because my money was going to somewhere I thought was more important and would use it better… I find it hard to believe it was all for nothing. I do not know whether it is entirely true that World Vision is, basically, a scam. But I am finding myself doubting them, and myself. Who can I trust now?
Darlene said Oxfam is a good charity for a variety of reasons, so I’ll be redirecting all my funds there. But it just upsets me so damn much. If only the people who could affect other people’s lives could just act decently. It’s a sucky world we live in, but I’m not going to give up on changing it for the better, because damnit, someone has to.

REW’s Jedi Social Gala

Last night Rebel Empire Workshops held the Jedi Social Gala. It was an evening for everyone to don the personalities and costumes of their own Jedi characters (or at least, a character not aligned with the Empire) and spend an evening together getting to know one another at a friendly social event. I was a little apprehensive because I’m not entirely comfortable with my acting skills, but fortunately for me, my character Jin (my dream character in many ways) was a young padawan on the verge of knighthood who, rather than associating with the other padawans and members of the jedi order, spent most of his time training and with his master on missions. Consequently, I didn’t really know anyone (though I had heard of some of the more infamous masters and recognised others by sight) and spent the first segment of the night by myself at one end of the room. With the coaxing of the sweet Master Benevolence and other friendly Knights, I was introduced to many respected masters, including "Lord" (read: self-proclaimed) Tetsu, Master Kai’h, Master Allana, Master Formal, Knight Na’ir, Knight Val, Knight Odin, Knight Tar’atha, Grandmaster Gadama, the Sabermaster, the Master Healer, the Master Archiver, Knight Dar’rin, the Major General, Padawan Brin and the absurdly French courtesan Eren. At times I found myself losing the role of the solitary student and becoming really interested and friendly (still in a jedi-way, but not in a Jin-way) with the other Knights and Masters, and I had to take a break halfway through to study up on Saber forms so I could appear more knowledgeable when I was speaking to actual Saber practitioners who knew much more than I did.

The hall was transformed incredibly, with the giant emblems of the Jedi on scrolls on the walls. Excellent bartending and waiting by Nat, JP and Adam (or was it Aaron?) who worked tirelessly to ensure we did not go thirsty. There were some stunning looking cocktails which I wish I had been able to try, including Yoda Spit (‘Who was this ‘Yoda’ character?" was a running joke for the night- in the timeline of Star Wars we are set many hundreds of years before the movies) and Bantha Doo. Truly, the ingenuity of the barstaff (and those involved in preparing the setting) must not go unacknowledged.

Another interesting aspect of the night was the tasks that people were assigned. AJ’s character for instance had to accuse JP of trying to poison his spring rolls (which saddened him to no end). Tar’atha (a gentle wookie, but wookie nonetheless) had to get into a fight with someone over being a Wildclaw, Kai’h had to try and get the council drunk etc… How absolutely brilliant, and so much fun!

Special mention must go to Kai’h, who was the character Kaneda played. He was a very convincing actor, and spent the night getting progressively more drunk (though he wasn’t really), leaning a little too close for comfort, telling stories about his family and picking fights with people.
Knight Tetsu (Andy) was amazing. At first a seemingly carefree Jedi Knight who made fun of everyone and had fun with everyone simultaneously, he made a subtle shift halfway through the night and began talking about the ease by which we might be swayed to the Dark Side. Our ignobilities, our fallibilities, how much we stand to lose and our weaknesses as people… Because he was my senior (in the Order) I did not downright argue with him, but I shut myself off from his rubbish- the Jedi are more than petty emotions. We are detached from the temptations that might lead us to Fall. I became a little angry at him (as a Knight, not my friend), and was troubled by what he said, but left him to it. It turns out he was actually a secret Sith Lord that people had to discover. What a brilliant mofo.
Knight Tamanoth was equally brilliant, lacking any emotions and merely speculating on how many Jedi did not receive his inventions and customisations well. He went through fifteen Padawans and a fair few lab assistants before he worked in solitude.
Master Formal was most amusing, inventing stories about everyone present from the days they were young Padawans like myself. He had a brilliant costume, especially his horns. I forget the name of his race, but it was most impressive to see him as a Jedi Master. He later brought up a bet that people were taking on whether Knight Tetsu could best Knight Val (a Mandalorian) in a fight. the odds were 4-1 that Val would lose. After some pressure, I decided to put 50 credits on both of them, and went up to each individually and told them they had my support.
And finally, the courtesan Eren just was freaking hilarious. She put on this outrageous French accent which was, I admit, very sexy. She was flirting with me  and getting a little closer than I could sensibly bear. I broke off mid-conversation twice to leave the hall to burst out laughing. When she approached me a third time at the end of the night, I thought I could take it for at least a few minutes, but her presence was too overpowering and I excused myself after we said "Hello". Curse that wily courtesan!

All in all, a really enjoyable night. It saddens me that I have not the heart to take on a Sith character, but it would be a most interesting experience to wait or see what it’s like without participating. I’m looking forward to future "Jedi" events.