Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Some people travel to visit friends or family. Some people travel to see the world. And some travel to escape. Such is the case of Jane, a character in Pacific Theatre’s latest show, Mother Teresa is Dead. Jane has travelled from England to India because she wants to help. She is overwhelmed by the poverty and injustice she sees in the world and feels an irrepressible need to help the less fortunate. But she has also left England to escape the life with her husband and young son that she sees as shallow and meaningless and seems to be drowning within.
When the play begins, Jane’s husband, Mark, has just arrived in India. Jane has been missing for seven weeks and Mark has only just tracked her down to the house of a British expat, Frances. Frances has kindly taken Jane in, but is unable to shed any light as to why Jane left Mark and their son without a word. When Mark learns that Jane has been working at a shelter helping children, he is livid that Jane would leave their child to help other children. There are explosive confrontations between husband and wife, as well as with Srinivas, the owner of the shelter who also arrives looking for Jane.
Mother Teresa is Dead made me think about travelling and why we travel. As someone who loves travelling and travels as much as possible, Mother Teresa is Dead made me think, why do we travel? Why do I travel? I know that I, as the traveller, learn so much. I learn about other countries and cultures. I try new things and have new experiences. I learn what I like and don’t like, and what I am capable of. I come home feeling enriched. But what about everyone else? How do my travels affect other people? It is clear Jane’s journey to India has affected so many lives, from her family in England, to locals like Srinivas and the children of the shelter, to the good Samaritan Frances. By travelling to India, does Jane really what she sought to do – help the less fortunate – or does she instead bring a world of trouble into Frances’ home?
Mother Teresa is Dead is a play that asks a lot big questions, but leaves them unanswered. Can one live a guilt-free life when so many people in the world are suffering? Do we do more harm than good when we try to help? Are charities designed just to ease the guilt of comfortable Westerners? In this way, Mother Teresa is Dead is neither preachy or apologetic; it just makes you think. As I was leaving the theatre I found I was asking my own big questions about travel and the motivations for travelling that I could not find the answers for.
Congratulations to Kayvon Kelly (Srinivas), Sebastian Kroon (Mark), Julie McIsaac (Jane), and Katharine Venour (Frances) for their superb performances and to Director Evan Frayne for a truly thought-provoking and enjoyable show.
When I travel, I often wonder what life is like for the women that live there. I know that with my pasty white skin and our roamancing red boots, I stand out and am not seen as one of them ~ treated with the grace and tenderness of a lady, but given the respect of a man in many cultures, in addition to being seen with a great deal of humour (often thanks to the red boots). You see, I won the lottery of birth. I was born into a Canadian home of two educated parents that treated each other as equals. It was me that my Dad tried to get to pursue medicine, not my brother. We were taught to believe that with hardwork and gumption, we could achieve whatever we set our minds to, and we have, although not necessarily quite in the manner we initially envisioned. I mean really, how few people get to live their lives the way I am? Don’t get me wrong I have fought hard to do what I do, and am still not making what I should (and as a single gal, I know I need to start planning for retirement), but had I been dealt a different hand in birth, none of this may have been possible. Heck, the fact alone that I worry about retirement tells you just how lucky I am. I myself may have grown up to be a very different person with none of the confidence and bull dog spirit I posses.
I was tenderly and heart-wrenchingly reminded of this when I attended a Vancouver Fringe Festival Play the other night at the Firehall Arts Centre ~ She Has A Name by Andrew Kooman presented by Burnt Thicket Theatre and RaiseTheirVoice. This was the story a young girl who at the tender age of 15 had seen more than I ever wish to see in a Bangkok brothel, repeatedly raped and forced into sexual acts from the tender age of 10, when she went into the city in Burma to work at a factory to help her single Mom support the family, or so she thought, before she was smuggled out of the country and forced into a life of sex slavery. This is also the story of the dangers and inner turmoil of the men and women from around the world that try to help victims of human trafficking, told from the perspective of Jason, a lawyer who has left his family in Canada to try and navigate his way through a Bangkok brothel in an attempt to gather evidence and build a legal case against them for trafficking girls into Bangkok. A particularly strong perspective if you ask me, as it reminded me of the turmoils that the men who try to help go through too.
In leaving this play, it left me wanting to do something to help, beyond telling all my friends to go see the play (which you all should do or if it’s not currently playing in in your area, get one of your local theatres to invite them). This is a story we all should hear and think about for these women, children (and men) often have no voice of their own and no one to hear their screams. How very scary is that. Here I live a life where I can speak my mind on politics, religion and all sorts of other contentious topics, without fear. A life where I was able to choose when to share my body with another and with whom, and I can assure you that was not at the tender age of 10 or 15, but when I was an adult, ready and at least thought I was in love. Thinking of having such acts forced upon me sickens me and further terrifies me to think that for these women, children, (and men), they have no one to seek help from. But what does one do to help? This is after all a very dangerous issue. A couple of things that occur to me more superficially in my own life:
On a broader scale, the play She Has A Name has given us some ideas on how we can help the victims of human trafficking and sex slavery, as from Play It Forward and encouraging others to see it. Here are their suggestions:
1. Write your MP and sign a petition
It’s not glamorous, but it’s effective. Let your MP know that as your representative you want them to be a strong voice against human trafficking. Visit www.shehasaname.net/respond/write-and-petition to find out your MP’s address and to learn about petitions you can print and share with others and send to Parliament, urging government to change the way we address the crime of trafficking in Canada.
2. Give to our partner project in Thailand
Home of New Beginnings is a safe-house in Bangkok that helps children and women leave the sex trade and begin new lives. You can read more at www.homeofnewbeginnings.com and donate online at www.a-better-world.ca – click on the Canada Helps “Donate Now” button, then select Fund/Designation as “Specify Project in Message Box” and then enter “She Has A Name” in the message field. You may also telephone A Better World Canada at 403.782.1140.
3. Fuel the Tour
If this story impacted you, help us ensure we make it across the country so more Canadians can engage the issue. You can donate mileage or fuel the tour vehicle between cities at www.shehasaname.net/fuel-the-tour.
4. Connect with Organizations Combatting Trafficking
Learn more about the issue and then volunteer your time and resources to bring change in a way that utilizes your unique gifts. Your life is so valuable, and we firmly believe you will experience great meaning as you use your gifts to change real stories of despair into real stories of hope! View a list of great organizations at www.shehasaname.net/organizations.
5. Report warning signs of human trafficking
- in your community, at work, when traveling to: Crime Stoppers 1.800.222.8477 (1.800.222.TIPS)
- online child sexual abuse imagery, child sex tourism, child trafficking, and child luring to: The Canadian Centre for Child Protection.
If you are in Vancouver, I encourage you to catch the final production of She Has A Name tonight at 9:30 pm at the Firehall Arts Centre. The next stops on their Canadian Tour are Kelowna (September 18th-21st), Edmonton (September 25th-30th) and Red Deer (October 2nd-6th).
Remember She Has A Name. Help give these women, children (and men) a voice and combat sex tourism.
Hell of a great day yesterday at the 13th Annual Burnaby Blues & Roots Festival! Took a ton of photos and video to share the day with all of you, but given my current state of exhaustion, you, my friends, are going to have to wait for me to process all of that.
In the meantime, however, I have a teaser for all of you in the form of pixengos Erica and I shot and recorded from the day. What is a pixengo you ask? A photo combined with a sound file. Simply click on the photos below, and you will get the photo with it’s sound bite from the day.
Up first … rocking the stage for too short a time … No Sinner.
Followed by one of our festival favourites, Canada’s only 7-piece Bluegrass Band, The Washboard Union.
Followed by the powerful voice and fearsome bass of Meshelle Ndegeocello.
Thank goodness the next act was who I’d been waiting for since I got my tickets, Amadou & Miriam. They certainly did not disappoint, and got me out of my funk from the hipster asses
Now while not as much of a stomper, the beauty of the music of the next blues man, Kelly Joe Phelps, would tame the wildest beasts with his sweet lullabies.
Up next? None other than the sweet, jazzy blues stylings of Jimmie Vaughan!
And what better way to end the day, than with the Indigo Girls!
Did I mention it was a Hell of a great day?!?
Concerts are a very rare feature in my life; I love music, yet am generally so out of the loop when my favourite artists are touring that I do not notice when they come and go. When I do, I am often too scared to bother attending because when it comes to venturing into the wild outdoors, my co-dependency springs up crying “There will be crowds! Crowds and noise and you don’t know anyone who can escort you in and out of this safely!” So I stay home and dream instead.
This summer, though, lady luck smiled upon me and I was given the chance to attend Florence + the Machine’s Vancouver show for her Ceremonials tour at Deer Lake Park with my dear friend Janice! It was the perfect opportunity. I am a great fan of Florence, albeit a rather recent one, so the artist in question made this a much anticipated summer event for me from the start. Add to that a mate to keep me company during the whole thing, and possibly rescue me from dwelling on the possibility that my nightmares come true and I am literally devoured by a large crowd. (We all have our personal boogeymen…)
When asked how my evening was after the fact, I had one thing to say in particular: Florence was great. I do not imply that the experience was something akin to having to dance on hot coals while beautiful music plays to partially soothe your aching feet somehow, but there were a few hang ups to be had. Some were self-made: my friend and I had a chance to claim a great spot towards the front of the stage, but we wasted it for love of pizza. We decided to chill on the grass for a bit before Florence came out, thinking we could just run up at some point and cut through the crowd like butter. (Or, well, I naively thought as much.) Nope! When we did choose to join the crowd, it had turned into an impenetrable fortress, at least for two mild-mannered young ladies. So our view of Florence was… slightly compromised.
Actually, no. That was a bad analogy. The crowd was more like a selectively-permeable cell wall. Throughout the show, there were many instances of people shoving their way through the area Janice and I had managed to settle in. It felt like Grand Central Station at times. After so many sorry-coming-throughs, I began to get a touch … irritated at something I should have expected when going to a sold-out show and choosing to stand with the bulk of my fellow concert-goers.
Yet, through all minor annoyances, including my camera and phone conking out minutes into the show, I can’t regret the experience. I could not see Florence all that well, capture the moment, or be of a wholly cheerful disposition when the lovely lady in front of me let her cigarette dangle with the smoking tip facing my way… I could still hear Florence just fine. Her powerful voice reached me, and while I did not forget the things that irritated me, I chose to accept them and love the show nonetheless. Most of my favourite songs were on the setlist! I would be jumping up and down happily at each song and was just grateful for my opportunity to be there at all.
Hopefully, though, the experience will help me prepare better for the next big show I attend in my lifetime. Everything is a lesson!