This year passages from Quaker Faith and Practice will alternate monthly with short poems by the American poet Carl Sandburg.
QFP 10.20 – One of the unexpected things I have learnt in my life as a Quaker is that religion is basically about relationships between people. This was an unexpected discovery, because I had been brought up to believe that religion was essentially about our relationship with God.
If we are sensitive, we find that everything that happens to us, good or bad, can help us to build a vision of the meaning of life. We can be helped to be sensitive by reading the Bible, and being open to experience of nature, music, books, painting, sport or whatever our particular interest may be. It is in and through all things that we hear God speaking to us. But I do not think I am alone in my certainty that it’s in my relationships with people that the deepest religious truths are most vividly disclosed. (George Gorman, 1982)
Collection this Month
Our collection this month is for Practical Action
Practical Action uses technology to challenge poverty in developing countries. Through innovative thinking and technical knowledge we enable poor communities to produce practical solutions to their most pressing needs.
If you wish to donate but can’t attend at the Meeting House, please send a cheque to Rachel Bach made out to “Ipswich Quakers”. Please send this before the end of the month concerned.
Our film is Quartet – lightening the atmosphere with a very positive film about old age – retired opera singers in a home, plus a superb soundtrack and subtitles.
Peter’s Year: “A Year Full Of Memorable Journeys”!
It involved extensive travelling and I visited four different continents from July to December.
My trips started in July with a very short three night visit to Venice. I had never been there before and it was a cheap city break advertised through teletext holidays with a flight from Stansted. We had a splendid time getting to all the tourist places and finding both the location of our hotel and the public transport by water taxis very easy to negotiate.
In September I went to Malawi in central Africa for four weeks to do my Voluntary Wildlife event for the year. These take a lot of researching to ensure their viability and that they are legitimate. Then one has to trust the people ‘on the ground’ and just go for it! I also think that with increasing experience I am more sure of what I need from these trips to ensure they are worthwhile. I also tend to go to a new country but also a former British colony or protectorate (Nyasaland) to reduce possible issues. Malawi by global GDP terms is the poorest country in the world and is still mainly a rural economy with the general countryside having been devastated by small scale farming. In addition most cooking is still by open wood fires which devour vast quantities of ‘bush’ wood. Most people have probably heard of Malawi with reference to Lake Malawi. This is an enormous inland fresh water lake, around 350 miles long and 45 miles wide. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site containing thousands of different species of cicadas. Malawi is also engrained within British colonial history mainly due to David Livingstone in exploration terms and his fight against the slave trade. Several towns are named after him and the fellow Scots who followed him and the previous country’s colonial capital was called Blantyre, where Livingstone was born in Scotland.
Where I worked was about 100 kms west of Lilongwe, the current capital city. The reserve called Kuti was around 200 hectares- 20 kms long by 10 kms wide- and was run by a trust for the benefit of the local community. It was open to tourists and there was on site accommodation with bicycle hire, eating places etc. It provided employment and income for local villages and for the security guards named Scouts who patrolled the reserve on a 24/7 365 day basis to protect the game: nine species of antelopes and a rescued ostrich, camel and giraffe! My work involved spending time with nominated Scouts to enhance their bird identification skills and undertake English conservation classes with them. The reserve was trying to upgrade its customer contact skill base.
The work was rewarding and interesting and I had sufficient time to go travelling around the country. One visit was to Llwonde National Wildlife reserve which had elephants, hippos and lots of crocodiles. Another was to the capital city to stay with a British man I met on the plane. He owned a farm there and was also an avid bird watcher. The country is very poor and going in the wrong direction. The President has just issued advice to his citizens that if they are short of food they should catch and eat mice. On the roadside there were traders with skewers selling ‘barbecued’ mice. However my lasting impression was not only of the exotic birds but the pleasant nature of all the Malawian people with whom I came in contact. The normal mode of transport around the reserve was cycling- I had not been on one for fifty years!
My next trip was quickly arranged on my return. I was off in around two and a half weeks to China in early October. This was substantially a domestic trip as my eldest son went to work there about five years ago and got married to a Chinese girl, Lina, and their baby named Oliver was born in October 2012. They had been planning to come here for about eighteen months but had been stopped with issues regarding the baby travelling. So I had to go there instead. Lina is well educated with a degree in English and her understanding of our language, even some of the colloquial terms we use, is impressive. However this time I was going to her home town of Laixi, situated in the province of Shandong about two hours by plane from Beijing-one flies everywhere due to the vastness of the country. It is about half the size of Ipswich and turned out to be a very pleasant city with broad, often six carriageway, tree lined roads and it was very modern. It has developed very fast recently and it must have been a town planner’s dream to expand over very flat, low agricultural land with no significant natural obstacles. We were there for Oliver’s second birthday- see photo-and Lina’s immediate family, who did not speak a word of English, were very relaxed with us and we were treated to several sumptuous Chinese meals. It almost became too much when one glass was even a little bit empty to have it filled up immediately and if you mentioned liking any type of food it was either found immediately or appeared the next day. The general populous of Laixi were extremely friendly and helpful though one often got stared at whilst out as ‘foreigners’ in such a remote part of China are very unusual and trying to purchase anything meant survival by sign language or often the assistant found a colleague or passer-by , usually school children, with some basic knowledge of English. Our Chinese was very limited to hello and thank you.
In addition to the domestic content of the trip two days at the end of our visit were spent using internal flights and hiring of taxis for good utilisation of our limited time. I had been to the Great Wall on my last visit but the Terracotta Warriors were very impressive. One picture does not get the sheer magnitude of the site and it was certainly the highlight of the trip, apart from seeing Oliver for the first time.
Lina was a revelation – her help, organisation ability and care for Oliver left me with complete confidence that my genes (both my son’s and Oliver’s) were in good hands. Even her mother love and care for Oliver was impressive with extended families being very close in China. Another memory was of the continued banter between her and Oliver, obviously only in Chinese.
The longest journey in distance and time was my five weeks in Australia in December. I had met a lovely lady in July 2015 who went to China with me and her daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren had emigrated there in December 2015- Perth on the west coast. She had already been to Australia with them when they emigrated but only for an extended holiday and had then returned to the UK. Perth itself is very modern-see photo-as it was the last major city in Australia to be founded. It stands upstream on the Swan River. The seasons in Australia are inevitably the reverse of ours and we were there early to mid-summer so it was very hot. I think it got to over 40 degrees centigrade one day but being on the coast there is often a sea breeze blowing and evenings are inevitably cool. The majority of the time was with her family in Perth and Christmas Day was spent on the beach in a temperature of about 30c-see photo.
Spending time with the children was particularly enjoyable and we often took them to school. Then on December 28th we travelled for seven days to Darwin then Alice Springs onwards to Ayers Rock and then on December 30th we flew to Sydney to take part in the New Year celebrations in Sydney harbour. We had three nights in Sydney including New Year’s Eve-see photos- and availed ourselves of a city and area tour and got to Bondi beach! Darwin is within the tropical climate belt and has an adjacent wildlife reserve-Kakadu. I had planned to go there to celebrate the dawn of the Millennium but had been unable to go due to ill health so it had taken me a further seventeen years to get there. It is a mosaic of wetlands with many saltwater crocodiles -the man-eating ones- and an extensive range of birds. This was the only dedicated natural history event of the trip but there were inevitably the unique commonplace Australian birds one is aware of each day. Parrots and a whole new set of endemic birds awaited me and enhanced my enjoyment of the trip-see photos, especially Australian magpies.
Ayers Rock was very impressive but commercial and very much a marketing icon for the Australian Tourist Board. But it is well worth its status. The marketing included alcoholic drinks at sunset, watching the changing shades of the rock in the cooling temperatures after a scorching day in the outback and the following morning up at 4.30 am to watch the changing shades at sunrise.
However the highlight of the whole trip was undoubtedly New Year’s Eve at Sydney harbour. The assembling of the massive crowd-always estimated to be around a million-is inevitably slow with many families coming with picnics etc. but the dispersal is swift with all those people trying to exit the harbour area along the narrow city streets, in one direction, towards a few designated ‘open’ public transport places. It is an awesome and somewhat frightening event with everyone wanting to go home at the same time.
But even with all this travelling I think as I get older that I am increasingly beginning to miss being away from the familiarity of my surroundings and I really appreciate returning to the company of secure loving people in the quiet of our Meeting for Worship.
Peter Howard .
Checkout our website: www.ipswichquakers.org.uk
We are on Twitter and Facebook