Mallorca’s Avalanche of Love

Santiago Stankovic Photography;

Generosity at its best

I have been blessed to meet some incredible people in my life and none other than this past week.  The powerhouse and inspiration behind Mallorca’s recent avalanche of love is none other than local councillor for Inca, Antonia Triguero.

At a recent gathering of Mallorca based group, Kreakolektiva, Antonia was asked by the hosts to speak about her visit to the island of Kos and why she had decided to collect for the refugees upon her return to Mallorca.  That she did shows the big heart she has and that evening, she inspired the hundred or so people gathered to get involved and none other than photographer, Santiago Stankovic, who immediately set about creating a Facebook event which spiralled out of wonderful control.

With these two souls putting their hearts out there for people to follow, the incredible result was almost overwhelming at times, with people coming from all over the island, donating thousands upon thousands of items to be sent to the refugees in Lesvos.

At first Antonia had secured one 40ft container, but a week of Santi driving all over the island inspiring people out of their houses with donations meant that not just another, but up to six more containers were needed and with people power, they have nearly all been secured with the original plan to leave for Lesvos in the next week or so.  There is a bank account into which anyone can donate to help with the transport, see below, as each container cost 4,500€ to send.

Unfortunately the European Union have just signed a sad and sour deal with Turkey and in the last 24 hours the situation in Greece is unclear, with refugees being turned away from Lesvos as well as being being turfed out of the inhumane camps they have been held in.  What faces Antonia now is  where to send these next containers and as soon as NGOs and colleagues on the ground in Greece can tell her, we shall spread the news as to what is happening with everyone’s kind donations.

All this got me thinking about many things.  One is that this could easily be me or you.  From one day to the next, our brothers and sisters, who now find themselves as refugees, were living in their homes, with their jobs and daily tasks, with their loved ones and their pets.  In a heartbeat, they were on their way with just enough to fill a backpack on a journey where they had no map and who knows if they will get to where they don’t know they are going.  Especially now, with the new ruling, no-one knows what will happen to them.

What Mallorca’s good people have shown this week is that we, the ordinary and the extraordinary people everywhere, know what is good and what is right and that is where our energies have been spent this past week.  It is NOT right that we have a situation whereby thousands and thousands of our human family are fighting for their lives on a daily journey with no clear destination in sight.  It is NOT right that our elected officials sit in their fine offices and wine and dine on the misery of our human families affected by greed, violence and outrageous ego.  It is NOT right that we continue to elect these self-same officious men and women who deserve to come down from their ivory towers and ask themselves “what if that were me”?  It is NOT right that the refugees have no safe passage to escape war and misery.  It is especially NOT right the recent and atrocious deal made on our behalf to turn back the refugees that even dare to think of setting foot in Europe.

Antonia Triguero, Santiago Stankovic, people of Inca, women, men, young people and children of Mallorca you are a force to be reckoned with.  You are people with heart, with a conscience, with abundant love and compassion.  You are a people I take my hat off to and thank you for being who you are.

Visca Mallorca!

To donate to Proem-Aid to send the containers onwards, please use “Contenedor Mallorca” as reference and donate to this account: ES49 1491 0001 2021 7549 1022

 

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Dying to get there

dime

I returned as a volunteer recently to the Mallorcan association, Dime Cuenta Con Nosotros, a group of dedicated volunteers who visit the two palliative care units on the island.  It has been some years since I have spent Tuesday mornings visiting patients and their families, but I am happy to be back for a number of reasons.

Death is a topic I am curious about, a curiosity that has been there for some time, years in fact.  I don’t know where this curiosity came from, but the subject of death has always been a healthy and matter of fact topic present in the background of my life.  My earliest memories of death was attending the funeral of my beloved nain, my father’s mother, up in North Wales on a windy day.  My younger sister and I spent the time of the graveside ceremony running amok through gravestones and having a rather fun time.

Some years later when I was about 13 years old, my mother picked up the newspaper one day and asked if I knew a girl named Sue.  The headlines explained how her father had shot her whilst she slept and then shot himself, apparently desperate with financial troubles.  My mother broke the news in a very natural way, and I remember that whilst I cried from shock, part of me felt that I didn’t have to cry.  Certainly my mother treated the subject naturally even though the setting was horrifying.

As I headed to my twenties, grandparents died at home, suddenly, not ill but just time for them to go.  Death was celebrated as a life well lived and a death well had, I was blessed, very blessed to have these experiences.  Not everyone is so lucky and death is a subject that brings with it fears, confusion, mystery and for perhaps a few a certain understanding.

Returning to Dime is an honour for me.  There I meet professionals working in the health sector, dealing with death in a dignified and respectful manner.  From the nurses to the doctors, from the psychologists and social workers and to the volunteers, all are learning from their experiences and learning all the time.  Training is given on a regular basis to the volunteers and Dime is fortunate to receive the support of some amazing individuals on this island.  Thanks to charities like Cala Nova Cancer Care Charity Shop, their fund raising and generous donations allow Dime to do what they do which is sending volunteers like me in to visit the many patients facing perhaps one of their biggest challenges ever.

What do I do?  I enter a patient’s room and politely ask if they would like a visit.  In a hospice setting this adds to the quality of care received by the patient.  Why?  We provide support to those inspiring individuals who work in the day-to-day care and treatment of those with cancer and perhaps other life changing illnesses.  We are incognito, we come and we go.  We listen and hold hands and if we need to, we can cry with a family member.  We can try to take them away from their own day-to-day, just for a moment.  Or perhaps we’ll be blessed to help them face what’s ahead.  We can hear what is not said if we are silent, and we can give and spread love for a while, as much as we can.

It is an honour to be part of the team at Dime and it is a privilege to spend time with people facing challenges I cannot imagine.  I can’t change the world, but I can change my attitude about life and perhaps I can, just for a moment, provide a listening ear to someone.

 

Dime Cuenta Con Nosotros relies on donations and are always grateful for support.  If you would like to be a volunteer and have languages, Spanish necessary, then please contact them directly – http://www.cuentaconnosotros.es

Justice, at a price

What a week it was!  Great for me, not so great perhaps for Esperanza Aguirre, President of the Partido Popular Madrid branch, who resigned amidst yet another corruption scandal in the party!  Oh well, good news for some it definitely was!

I also had my first ever visit to the inside of a Spanish courtroom and I went through many emotions whilst there – disbelief and disappointment amongst them.  I was there to support my friend whose son was up on charges for resisting arrest (I really don’t blame him) and I was impressed by his maturity, honesty and handling of the matter in the courtroom.

However, I was more than a little surprised and occasionally stunned by the other participants in this drama!  At one point, one of the lawyers for the prosecution told my friend’s son to kindly address her and use the formal you, the same as she was using to address him.  I’m sorry – what did she just say?!

As a speaker of Spanish and having grown up without a formal you in English, I have long had my own issue with the usted, the formal you.  I waiver between feeling insulted when it is used to address me, especially with those who are younger than me, as well as feeling quite uncomfortable.

It’s one of those situations that has me constantly on my guard – do I use it, dare I not use it?  As a consequence, I have made many mistakes in my 24 years of living in Mallorca, sometimes not using it and receiving very clear messages that that is not acceptable and occasionally being given the freedom to throw it to one side.

The moment the youngish lawyer said that to my younger friend, I realised just how great the gulf is between people.  At no point had the young man lost his respect to this individual; at no point was he rude to this person or any of the others – six more esteemed colleagues including the judge were in the courtroom.  I felt it was entirely unnecessary for her to stop him mid-flow and point this out to him especially as he had not really addressed her with the informal you.  It seemed a clear case of “mind your place” and “I am so much more than you” and it was a shame, especially as the qualities demonstrated by this young man on this particular day were those that make the world a much better place – honesty, respect, humility, repentance, a willingness to move on and above all, a better wisdom and understanding about himself and life in general.

The soap opera continued with the testimonies of the other three young men implicated in the case, and again they were consistent with the story, as well as honest, open and respectful.  I could not say the same for two of the five police officers I managed to hear.  What a situation!  Their stories differed and at times made no sense, indeed the lawyers for the defence were as puzzled as the rest of us.  At one point, when the same lawyer for the prosecution, read out – once again – the list of insults my young friend had apparently hurled at the police office, the policeman actually said he was used to such insults but couldn’t explain therefore why such a physical altercation ensued.

Obviously I don’t work in law enforcement and can’t comment on the training received, but I can comment that what I saw that day were two officers disillusioned with their jobs, burnt out with the absurdity of it all, but more worryingly, buying into stereotypes as to the type of people who surround them.  I can more than imagine that on a regular basis they have to put up with aggression, bad manners, physical threats, rudeness, insults and more, but I can also see that they “see” certain people in ways that are not real.

It is time we looked beyond the make-up, beyond the stereotype and that goes for both sides in this case.  The policeman could look beyond the young, male skater and my friend could look beyond the uniform.  Perhaps if two years ago they could have been given the opportunity to truly hear the other’s story, we could have avoided this sorry spectacle of waste: energy, time, money and spirit.  Perhaps the police officer could have heard a young man’s passion for his sport, needing to practise it every day, living a life that is creative, disciplined, supportive and adventurous.  Perhaps my young friend could have heard of a man’s dreams that led him into the force and perhaps how those dreams were not all he imagined.

We have to go back to court in one month to hear what the sentence will be.  The prosecution changed her mind and now wants three years instead of two.  I hope it gets thrown out where it belongs and I hope my young friend does not have his life ruined from one mistake.  Sadly, that’s all it takes nowadays, one mistake.  However, if you’re a politician or a member of the royal family in Spain, you can be let off for planning a longterm systematic theft of public funds!  There’s still time though, watch out people, justice might just catch up with you.

Living and dying

I recently went to an event at the people’s cinema in Palma, Cine Ciutat, organised by Dona Sana Feminista.  Various clips of films showing different dying scenes were shown.  The Sea Inside (Mar Adentro), based on the true story of a man who spent 28 years fighting for the right to end his life was shown as well as The English Patient, One True Thing and Whose Life is it Anyway.

The event, “La muerte forma parte de la vida” (death forms part of life), also heard the views on death and dying from two eminent and respected doctors.  Dr Carlos Barra, member of the Spanish association Derecho a Morir Dignamente (the right to die with dignity), and Dr Enric Benito, senior consultant in palliative care and in charge of the Balearic palliative care units.

What struck me about the clips and the debate afterwards was firstly that the topic of death is everywhere.  From Death Cafés taking place all over the world in which the subject discussed is death – my own participation in this has monthly meetings well attended here on the island – to end of life care, soul midwifery, green burials – it’s become a 21st century concern and a one that is changing perceptions everywhere.

Dr Barra talked about freedom of choice, democracy and dignity whilst Dr Benito talked about spirituality and transcendence almost promoting healthy dying.  They agreed on dignity and that things need to change in terms of care and support as well as choices.  I felt that whilst it is important that dignity and choice are paramount for people in moments of pain, what wasn’t discussed is how we live life.  Dr Benito did touch upon this by suggesting that people die like they have lived.  The room seemed to take an in breath at such a suggestion but I liked what he said.

What does that mean, to me?  Choose a life of happiness is a start.  Choosing relationships that allow me to grow, choosing to learn from challenging moments in my life, choosing good health over medication – the list goes on.  I chose home births for my two boys.  Why?  Because I could.  I had healthy pregnancies and I wanted them to be born to people they knew, in a setting that was calm, quiet and above all, stress free.  I could have chosen a hospital birth with strangers, maybe the same doctor who would have seen me throughout my pregnancy might have been there.  Along with bright lights, forms to fill out, questions to answer – but that wasn’t for me.  My list of choices affects the education of my children preferring small and alternative to big and standard; my working habits at this age of my life have also been chosen with me in mind.  In fact I have never been poorer financially as I am now, having chosen to give up a well paid job some years ago to forge ahead in a new direction – one that is satisfying, one that is helping others and one that fulfils me.  When I die, I shall chose to die in a healthy way, whether I am ill or not.

I remember my good friend Rufus who died of cancer some years ago.  He was well supported by his partner, my good friend Jo, and lots of friends besides.  The weekend before his death, we friends gathered at his home to support him and Jo.  We knew that Rufus wanted to die there and we wanted to respect his wishes as much as possible, but at the same time, this was a decision that affected Jo too.  It was decided that he would go to Hospital Joan March, up near Bunyola, where they have a specialised, palliative care unit.  He was admitted on the Saturday.  The care there was excellent.  It was attentive, it was peaceful, it was accommodating and it was filled with love and light.  Over the next days, Rufus received many visits and Jo was supported at all times.  Between the friends and the hospital staff, the end soon came.  When I arrived there in the middle of the night a few minutes after Rufus had left his body, I entered a room with Jo at his side and a nurse in the background.  I shall always remember her name – Consuelo (comfort) – and I shall always remember her, not for anything she said but for all that she did by being there, close to Jo to support her in that moment and allowing Rufus to go to sleep, forever.

I want to die like Rufus should ever I become ill.  He was dignified whilst ill, conscious to the last whilst ill, medicated for the pain whilst ill and above all, alive and happy whilst ill.  He never complained and I think his acceptance of what was going on in his life helped him.  He died like he lived – as himself and with a greater wisdom and a dignity which was all his.

 

Capsula Mundi – a new design

My guests are always interesting and amazing!

The Happiness Cafe Radio Show

Designers, Raoul and Anna

A recent guest at the Happiness Café was Raoul Bretzel of Capsula Mundi, a design company from Italy changing the face of western burial practises.  Raoul and his colleague Anna Citelli, have worked in the world of design in Italy for many years, winning prizes for innovative furniture designs many times.

However, back in 2003, they turned their attention to a design that hasn’t been touched for hundreds of years, namely the coffin.  In their journey to create a design that is at once both healthy and sustainable, they created a pod, the capsule.

They designed a life sized pod in which the corpse sits, in a foetal position, and which is then placed in the ground and a tree planted on top.  There is a mini sized pod for ashes which will be planted in the same way, thereby creating a forest of trees brought to life by bodies…

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Petró Kohut – Lucky Bodies, Happy Souls

At The Happiness Café, there’s always an interesting guest!

The Happiness Cafe Radio Show

Petró Kohut

My guest, Petró Kohut, is an Australian with a Ukranian background presently settled in Mallorca and a really great guy!  He is co founder of Lucky Bodies, Happy Souls, an holistic centre in Palma offering Rolfing, yoga and naprapathy (yes I hear you say, what?!  Got to get that practitioner on the show), amongst other great services.

We talked about Rolfing structural integration and I learned that people who work at their desks all day would be wise to pop along to Petró for a consultation.  Petró is a man who walks his talk.  By that I mean he not only offers a service that is useful, important and possibly life changing, but he also has a gentle wisdom about him to steer one into a way that is more beneficial.  Alas, there was no time to give me a quick structural adjustment in the studio, but since our chat…

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The Clown Whisperer

At The Happiness Café radio show, I am delighted to have great guests!

The Happiness Cafe Radio Show

Andreu - Clown extraordinaire

I don’t think I have laughed so hard and so much in a long time but this week’s show was just that, and more.  My guest was a clown.  A clown teacher, a clown director, a clown producer, a clown performer and even a clown doctor – that’s a lot of clown for one man!

Andreu Segura Seguí is also the founder of the Mallorca Christmas Clown Festival which has just celebrated its fourth year but we didn’t have time to talk about that on the show, more’s the pity.

Andreu talked about the time he took clown to war torn Bosnia at the end of the 90s and I realised whilst chatting with him at The Happiness Café that more laughter is needed.  It’s an activity that keeps us present, in tune with the moment and when we’re in the moment, life is good.

Although I laughed a lot…

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Fun-d raising!

fundraising; CEN; London; cycling; Prudential London 100

Brother Deuan

My brother Deuan is an awesome man, he is 56 years old and the oldest teenager I know!  Why a teen?  He has an incredible energy that is exhuberance personified and coupled with his spontaneity about everything happening around him, he is never still for long.

My brother Deuan is someone I admire very much.  He has many talents and he is someone that people love to meet and know, so great is his energy that he uplifts wherever he goes.  He also walks his talk and when he puts his mind to do something, he always follows through.

My brother Deuan works in the charitable sector in England in the world of education.  The organisation our father Gerry German started over a decade ago is Communities Empowerment Network and Deuan is Strategic Director there, responsible for fund raising amongst other things.  Communities Empowerment Network or CEN as it is also known provide “Free Independent Expert Advice, Support, and Representation to parents and to carers of children who are at risk of exclusion or have been excluded”. They also provide excellent training in dealing with exclusion for both the community and professional organisations.

CEN do the work they do by relying on donations and funding and so on the 2nd August my brother Deuan will be cycling the Prudential London Surrey 100 to raise much needed funds for this organisation.

At times it can be useful to think beyond our own lives and families and commit ourselves to being part of the global family.  We are the village raising our children and some of those children here in the United Kingdom, excluded or expelled from schools need our help.  CEN is the organisation with an incredible wealth of knowledge, who are committed to supporting and providing information to the more than 1000 children and young people who come to them every year in a moment of crisis.  Most cases should not have come to the desks of CEN but as we live in a world of reaction and intolerance coupled with confusion and fear with a system that doesn’t always benefit a child who might be different, the cases continue to pile up.

Your child might have been lucky in a number of ways with the school you chose for them and that is great news.  I am so happy with the choices I made for my sons and my second born enjoys an alternative education in an eco school in Mallorca.  However, all of the children today are tomorrow’s adults and our companions, colleagues and collaborators of the future.  Where one is failed, we all have failed.

If you are interested in knowing more about CEN and what they do, please visit their website and contact my brother Deuan there – volunteers always welcome and any professionals wishing to offer pro bono work too (lawyers, educators, social media, marketing, fund raisers, event planners etc).  If you can donate to this particular race then please visit the Just Giving webpage to do so.  If you wish to tithe a part of your salary or income in a more sustainable way, then CEN would love to hear from you.

In memory of our father Gerry German, a man who had many children – 5 were biological and hundreds of thousands were his soul children – “believing is seeing” and he saw the very best of each and every one of us!

 

Communties Empowerment Network            http://www.cenlive.org/

To donate, London Surrey 100                        https://www.justgiving.com/Deuan-German4/

Politic…. or is it?!

David & Goliath

As I took Maggie out for a walk this morning, I bumped into one of the football mums who was also a buddy in the little political party I was involved in for the May local elections.  Since the disaster of the results and the ensuing lack of cooperation on the part of the opposing parties, I have taken myself away from them.  The experience was interesting and I don’t even begin to understand politics but I certainly do wish and hope for less ego and more humility for those who get involved, myself included.

So here’s the thing: catching up with said mum about the latest in the village, we chatted about the recent resignation of the president of the local football team.  Yes, I had seen the news in the local press just a couple of days ago – no reasons were given for his resignation.  However, it transpires that he’d had his fingers in the pot, hence was asked to stand down. Now that did grab my attention as the facilities at our local football ground have not been the best for sometime.  Of course, if there’s no money then it’s understandable that facilities are going to be lacking – anyone can understand that can’t they?

I queried whether the ex president was facing prosecution or at least a guarantee that he would never be able to run for any public office ever again.  Ha, how stupid am I?!  No, of course not, not even a slap on the wrist, just a quick and convenient resignation with a whole village colluding with him, myself included!

That brings me on to what’s happening in Greece and them standing up to the Troika with a resounding “no” this past Sunday.  Now I cannot even begin to fathom how we are going to come out of that mess or any mess in the world today come to think of it!  I would have voted “no” too.  But what is the answer?  All I know is that we cannot continue in a world that gives corporations so much power over us and I believe we are going to have to learn to stand up for ourselves by saying no.  However, it is always convenient isn’t it to have a big bad Goliath to blame for our woes.

So when are we going to stand up and say something about our parents’, our partners’ and our children’s behaviour?  You know, those people who make up our community, our society, our world – us!  We are colluding, together, all of us – Troika, left, right, centre, apathetic, racist, sexist, classist, age-ist – we are all in it together.  From our ways of consuming, never questioning where it’s coming from; to the ways of turning a blind eye on corruption or bad behaviour, every day we fail to stop and say, “hang on, that’s not right is it” or even demand a change.  No, it’s more a case of – it’s nothing to do with me, my son doesn’t play football or I shouldn’t say anything, I might get beaten up or worse.  Or even, Greece, let them sort it out themselves after all they’ve only got themselves to blame!

Guess what!  We are all in this together, we are all turning the blind eye on ourselves and our behaviour.  The beauty of life is that we are here to manifest the most brilliant part of ourselves – the part that stands up for what’s good and what’s right, the part that embraces peace, love and happiness as a universal right.  The part that acknowledges that each and every one of us here on earth has the basic human right to food, water and shelter, that it is not a luxury or something that we should work hard for!  What happens instead?  We fight against each other, we blame others for our misfortunes, we don’t stand up to the bullies, we allow feelings of negativity to over-ride every bit of common sense and we refuse to believe in the good of everyone.

No, I haven’t got the answers but I will be damned if I am going to give up.  I shall continue to do my little bit, even if I just influence my sons to be and do their very best, I will have done something to be proud of.  Now, if I can just get hold of that ex president and influence him…. that would be the icing on my cake of life!