BootsnAll Travel Network

Archive for the 'justice' Category

« Home

of books and spare parts

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

Auckland, New Zealand

The wealth of Europe was a stark contrast to the poverty we experienced in Asia. But it did not challenge us – we were removed from it, living relatively simply with just our seven backpacks.
The wealth of New Zealand, however, confronts us. It is personal. It is ours.
Most specifically – for today anyway – I’ve been unpacking our books. It’s no secret, we have a lot of books.


We believe a good education can be gleaned through books and we have made every effort to ensure our children (and wider community) have access to good books. I do not regret this in the slightest, but as I opened box after box after box after box after box all full of books, I could not help but think of the children we met in Laos – the one who were receiving their first ever books, the ones who would have a library of fifty books to choose from and then there would be no more for them to read. Fifty. Fifty books for your whole childhood. Fifty more than when Big Brother Mouse began publishing, but it’s still a pitiful number, is it not?
When we visited BBM, we were impressed. Very impressed. And I don’t just say that – we also visited an orphanage in Cambodia where we were NOT impressed. That one was a money-swindling operation with very little credibility. Big Brother Mouse was different. Do you remember us going to the book party we sponsored and then writing about it on the blog? That’s THE ONE post that people keep talking to us about even now.
And we keep thinking about it too.
We want to sponsor another book.
Having no personal income makes this difficult for the children, so we are thinking creatively. As we have unpacked the book boxes, we have not automatically returned them to their homes on wooden shelves, but have set aside a fair number to sell. We’ve just got to work out the best way to do this. TradeMe? A book fair?
We could do another sponsored walk too: the Coast to Coast walk we did last time would not be such a challenge now, so we may need to set our sights on something more demanding. Any ideas?
Another silent auction perhaps. The only problem is we no longer have a houseful of gear we do not need. We’ve given it away! Maybe we could approach businesses to donate decent prizes instead of on-selling just our junk.
We could ask all our readers to donate a dollar each, and according to our stat counter, we’d be well on the way to sponsoring a book. Any takers?

Then there are the other things needed at BBM. Of course their biggest need is for money so that they can get on with their work of making books and getting them into the hands of the Lao population. But they can also use educational games, used laptops and digital cameras, and old computer parts, as well as the odd book that they don’t publish themselves (they do not, however, want all the throwaway books that no-one else in the west wants either!)
One thing we noticed during our month in Laos is that there were precious few toys. Kids kicked around rattan balls, and the little girl in whose house we stayed had a Barbie doll, but that was all we saw. Knowing what enjoyment our own children have had with a wooden train set, I wondered if such a toy would be appropriate in Laos. I thought maybe not, because quite simply there are no trains in Laos. But look! Here on the Big Brother Mouse website is a picture of kids playing with a new toy – a wooden train set!
As for games, I suspect there are plenty of kiwi households with an old magnetic Chinese Checkers board or wooden quoits set or construction equipment sitting in the back cupboard. There might even be microscopes or inflatable globes no longer in use. I’m sure there are Monopoly games with Park Lane missing, or 1000 piece puzzles of which only 998 pieces remain. Lao learners don’t need these offerings! Neither could they use games requiring a good command of English. But surely there are *universal* games sitting in dusty corners that could enhance the life experiences of children, who ordinarily have access to next-to-nothing. Is there anything at your house? If you live in New Zealand, we’re happy to collect goods, and somehow get them to Sasha in Laos. We’re willing to personally deliver them if need be <wink>

the resources table at the school we visited


we did it!

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Auckland, New Zealand

It took us a week, but we got the garden weeded, composted and planted.

We also got the kitchen totally tidied and functioning – the rhythm of bread baking and yoghurt making is established, sprouting and fermenting are on the verge of happening, even the freezer is now stocked.
All the linen has a home – for a lot of it, that home is at the Sallies.
All the children’s toys are accessible – or at the Sallies.
All the “work boxes” (read: notebooks, journals, maths books etc) are ready-to-use.
All the sandals and gumboots are lined up in the garage (and new ones purchased for those who needed them – not from the Sallies).
The bathrooms are sparkling; the novelty of a clean shower has not worn off and willing workers keep it pristine.
Light fittings have been washed and moved (coz we had nothing else to do, y’know).
Musical instruments are available.
The computers are running and internet connected.
The garage is almost tidy.
A broken window repaired (Mr Repair Man arrived within half an hour of calling the insurance company – not bad, eh).
People have been dropping in (not that this is a job – it’s just time-consuming).
Rob spent the whole evening opening mail (that *was* a job, AND time-consuming)

There is just craft gear to sort and books to place on shelves. Possibly the two biggest jobs of them all 😉

We have lots of space that we didn’t used to have. There are empty drawers in the kitchen, empty shelves in the laundry, nothing under our bed, coathangers without a job to do in the wardrobe, big gaps on the floor.
We simply have less stuff. It’s gone to the Sallies.
But we’re still left with a lot.
When I start comparing our gear to the possessions of the family we stayed with in Mongolia or the ones living in bamboo huts in Thailand or Laos, it all seems so unfair.
What is the point of such comparison? Is anything to be gained? I could give all our stuff away, but how would that help those families? We could cut off our water and power, but what would that achieve? How would it help others?
In the midst of trying to settle into comfort, there are uncomfortable thoughts.

We might have planted the garden, but we haven’t answered the big questions.
In fact, we haven’t even asked some of them.

asking the right questions

Monday, November 23rd, 2009
Brasov, Romania You’ve got to know what questions to ask. On both Saturday and Sunday I asked different people how Romania has changed over the past hundred years. You could ask that question in New Zealand and likely receive a response ... [Continue reading this entry]

a tale of two cities

Thursday, November 12th, 2009
Budapest, Hungary Krakow is supposedly the new Budapest. After our one day driving through the more famous city, we were impressed, but holding judgement as to which one we prefer. Leaving Krakow yesterday, we still hadn’t decided – we needed ... [Continue reading this entry]

lest we forget

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009
Krakow, Poland

The first time we visited Auschwitz, it was the middle of winter. Snow covered the ground and fell on to our woollen coats; we shivered, ... [Continue reading this entry]

then and now; old and new

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009
Krakow, Poland  Letterboxes. You wouldn’t think there’s much to say about a letterbox, would you? But they symbolise today’s observations. Down in the lobby of our inner-city hostel, just like in all the other old buildings and new apartments in Poland, ... [Continue reading this entry]


Monday, October 19th, 2009

Berlin, Germany

The mayor, the chief of police and the head judge are all females in a particular town in Brazil. You’d have thought one of them might have objected to a twelve year old starving girl being ... [Continue reading this entry]

blog-vertorial bulgaria

Thursday, October 8th, 2009
Sakar Hills Camping, Biser, Bulgaria Bulgaria is not a country that beckons tourists. Possibly because there’s next to no tourist industry. But, in my humble opinion, that actually makes it all the nicer. It’s real. It’s raw. It’s relaxing. It’s ... [Continue reading this entry]

beggars can’t be choosers – or can they?

Thursday, September 17th, 2009
Athens, Greece


Before the ignition is even turned off, one little girl is forlornly looking into my open window. In Greek she asks for money, “ena” for drink, fingers clenched, thumb pointing to her ... [Continue reading this entry]


Wednesday, July 8th, 2009
by a dreamer Helmsley, England In my imagination in the middle of sheep covered hills there is a town set around a market square. The market square has little shops – butcher, baker, cheese seller, cloth merchant, wool shop, tailor, candlemaker, ... [Continue reading this entry]