Thursday, 27 November 2008

Where have the days gone?

It's Thursday afternoon and I can't believe that I haven't updated this since very early on Monday.

Ít's been a really busy time with all sorts happening. The conference opened on Monday with a Powhiri at the university Marae. This is a formal welcoming ceremony that includes speeches in the Maori language on behalf of the hosts and the visitors, singing and being fed. It was a very special event and it was also when I first met Conors. Fortunately both of us were pleased with what we saw and continue with the mutual admiration!

I hope that my photo's of the carvings and the Marae are ok, it is an incredibly beautiful building and I'd like you to admire it as much as I did.

The first formal sessions of the conference was interesting mainly because it reminded me how long it has been since I've had anything to do with academic research and events of this kind. I enjoyed it all but much of what I heard on Monday left me thinking 'tell me something I didn't know' and 'so what?'

Quite prepared to acknowledge that I had been feeling doubtful that I was up to the task - that there would be a realisation that bringing me 13,000 miles as a "keynote, international speaker" had been a waste of lots of money as well as lots of time and effort. Crisis of confidence? You bet! Anyway, that first afternoon helped me put things back into perspective............... in that, I'm here and it's far far too late to change my mind.

Getting back to the apartment and discovering that the shower had been fixed was yet another boost to my spirits - we now had 4 showers between 5 of us!

Conor had organised dinner for those involved in the work linked to Workplace Wellbeing and we went to the Mexican Cafe. Having had Chinese on Saturday and Malaysian on Sunday I was wondering whether there is a New Zealand cuisine - other than pies. Reassured that there is and that I will experience it.

Dinner was great, there were about 12 of us and I met even more new people. From the Community & Voluntary sector and also from the PSA - Public Services Association - UNISON's sister organisation in New Zealand and the SFWU - Service and Food Workers Union - which represents a lot of members in the sector and works closely with the PSA.

We finished the evening with coffee in the casino next to the tower that features in a couple of my photo's. The coffee was rotten but the casino was impressive. Though I'm not sure they were overly keen on a bunch of people staying long enough for 1 drink while they planned a round table discussion! Not a dollar was spent in the casino proper.

I was asked to join the round table discussion which was set up to begin to paint a picture of what successful employment in the sector would look like. The panelists were a mixture of managers, trade unionists, researchers and it was a very positive session with plenty of engagement with the audience. A great start to the day.

Tuesday afternoon was largely spent preparing with Conor for the great debate on Tuesday evening and for the presentation on Wednesday morning.

The Tiara and the Feather Boa
A couple of weeks before I was due to travel Conor had asked me if I take part in a debate at the conference on Tuesday evening. She told me that it would be light hearted and most of all brief. There would be an Aussie team and a Kiwi team and that I would be joining the Kiwi team as a Londoner living in Scotland with Pat (Canadian) and herself (Kiwi but lived mainly in Oz). At 2 weeks and 13,000 miles it sounded fine and I agreed. On Tuesday afternoon knowing that our side were defending the argument that ''the third sector is the handmaiden to the empire" seemed to be the craziest thing I'd ever agreed to. Conor - as ever- was well prepared with a draft script, a medieval gown, doc martins, pith hemit, khaki shirt, feather boa, bone china cup and saucer, anzac biscuits, a phone book and two tiara's. The doc martins date from her biker days but most of the rest was courtesy of a hire shop. Anyway it all took place during the conference dinner was great fun and the Kiwi team clearly won. The MC announced a draw but he was only being polite to the visiting Aussies! There should be photo's coming in from vartious parts of the world.

Having got that over with I knew I could do anything and I'm back to being my usual cool, calm an collected self. Except I lie.......... I have a rotten cold and am feeling pathetically sorry for myself.

Time for a brief break........

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