Big City of lights

We flew into Sydney last night. An hour late and like icebergs because the aircon was so cold on the plane but excited to be here. Kat and Tom picked us up which was great and we headed into Newtown for some drinks and Thai food. Really good thai it was amazing and we bumped into three other people that we knew, including Josh which made me feel like I could have been in Alice. We made it home with gelato and Kat and I a little bit tipsy for late night conversations in their backyard.

This morning we headed out for breakfast in downtown concord. It all felt very inner west. It isn so good to be here. Tom and Kat asked if it was weird to be here after so long but it’s not really. While I am very conscious of the people and traffic and advertising coming in being here feels very normal. It’s amazing how you can not see some people for ages but as soon you do it just feels like they’re your friends and that’s it.


I think I am making a bit of a theme this year of joining in conversations when they have finsished. But I am at a loss of what to blog about and I meant to do this when it was going as I love books so here you go. Five books that have impacted my life. This list of course could be a lot longer and would probably be different on another day but here’s what came to mind today.

“Passionate Marriage” by David Schnarch

I think I have probably read this book or parts of it every year since I got married. I guess I am a pretty slow learner and I still get something out each time. The main theme of this book is differentiation which is about holding onto yourself in close relationships. Quite contrary to popluar cultures idea of romance and intimacy, this book argues that we need to validate ourselves and our own sharing in our relationships not expect that from someone else. When things go wrong in our relationships, especially our marriage, we like to blame the other person and spend most of our time trying to change them. Passionate Marriage puts the focus on us. If we want the sort of marriage we want we need to create ourselves not expect it from another person. It is very liberating I reckon.

“Christianarchy” by Dave Andrews

It’s been awhile since I read this book so I am not sure I can really articulate clearly what it is about and who knows if it would have the same effect now but the first time I read it felt like coming home. At a time when I was feeling that perhaps Christianity wasn’t for me this book made me feel it was. Christianarchy talks about a very radical Jesus. A Jesus that was inclusive, passionate about the poor and a grace that meets us where we are and is truly unconditional. It pushes us to also live like this.

“God of small things” by Arundhati Roy

Others have mentioned this book but it truly is rare. Perhaps not in it’s themes, no it looks at the univeral themes of love across boundaries and family and death and being on the outside but almost every sentence in a feast. The way she puts things together is truly extraordinary. It would creat a passion for language in anyone I reckon.

“Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Friere

This was one of the first books I read when I bagan studying adult education and it very much influenced the huge passion I have for my work. It certainly got me through some of the much drier, uninspiring texts we had to read and is still what I come to back to now for inspiration in my work. I have talked about this before but this book is written in a Latin American context and calls educators to use education to liberate people rather than oppress them.

“The Curly Pyjama Letters” by Michael Luenig

There had to be a Leunig book in there and I think this would be one of my favourites. I love the way Leunig points us extraordinary in the ordinary. Who makes us feel like life is filled with wonder in all that is mundane. Whenever I read this book or any Luenig prayer or thought really I am overwhelmed with a desire to give thanks or to dance or just bask in the sunshine.

“The good news according to Luke” by Richard Rohr

I have thrown this in at the end. I know I said five but then I thought of this and just had to put it in and I didn’t want to get rid of any of the others. I read this book this year and it excited me again at another low point in my journey to read the Bible. Not in the way I have traditionally but in a way that opens up possibilities for truth and understanding beyond the literal. It encouraged me that I can still come to the Bible even if I don’t come to it as most Christians do, that God is bigger than all our limited understandings.

Book 13 Dias de Agusto

This book has certainly slowed me down. Written in Spanish (and not really that good) meant that it took me a long time to get through. It was basically about a guy having a summer in holiday with his daughter in a place where he grew up remanicissing “the good old days” when he was younger. The focus was definitely on the girls that he was with. There were a few interesting reflections on life and marriage and getting older and all those things but I wasn’t that excited by this book. I guess I can not really relate to that feeling of school and uni being the best days of our lives and I thought the guy wasn’t a bit of an idiot. It was good to read a book in Spanish though. I know my Spanish is slipping mroe and more each year so I need to do these things to ensure I don’t lose it totally.


I started attending a Quaker meeting a few months ago. I tried the Salvos but I just don’t think the main stream church is for me at this stage of my life. I am just loving the Quaker meetings though. We are a small group (only 6 of us) and all of us except one are pretty new to Quakerism so we have been reading a book of different readings called Quaker Basics. Obviously it is all about Quakerism and what the Quakers do and stand for. There is some really interesting and inspiring stuff in it and after the meeting in silence we have breakfast and sit and discuss the readings.

Last weeks reading were really profound for me and spoke directly to a situation I have been having at work. A student of mine a few weeks got a little frustrated with another student in the class who had answered a question he had posed. This is something I encourage in my classroom, I like creating a space in which we all learn together and from each other so I asked him stay back and talk about his problem. I was nervous as this student has also always been quite cold with me as well. However we had the most amazing conversation. He started off quite aggressively telling me that he came to class to learn English from me. He said that in Africa the teacher teaches and the students learn. If the students know so much then they don’t need to come to class he argued. He also said that he didn’t like group work. He told me that the other students in the class were rascist, that he has been studying with them for a year now and they hadn’t talked to him before, only now in my class. I was secretly pleased with this revelation, one of things I have most enjoyed is watching the students build friednships and learn about each other’s culture but obviously it is hard for him so I asked if he would prefer to work with the other Sudanese students. He said he wouldn’t. He is from a different tribe to most of the Sudanese in Alice and in my class and it was this other tribe that came into his village and murdered his parents and older brother. I was obviously shocked but his coldness with me was starting to make more sense. I listened to him as he told me his story, and he calmed down as he did so. He told me about how he came to Australia and his wife and children still in Sudan.

Since then I have thought about him a lot. About his life of course but also his thoughts on my teaching. While I have to say he seems to be a lot better in class since our chat I have been really struggling to work out how I can be the sort of teacher he wants without changing my style completely. Not only do some of the other student’s report to like it but I think it is actually a leads to more learning than a totally teacher centred approach. Not to mention I think it is really the only way I can be, While I was battling with this in my head I read this in the Quaker book. The author is actually a teacher as well, who does traning with other teachers about their strengths and weaknesses so it speaks directly to my problem but I think it works in all areas of life too.

“I ask the teachers to help each other to see that our limitations and liabilities are the flipside of our gifts, how our weaknesses are the inevitable trade offs we must make for having the strengths we have. When I understand my limits as trade offs for my strengths, something new and liberating happens within me. I no longer want to have my limitations fixed for to get fixed would be to compromise or destroy my gift. Instead I want to learn to acknowledge, embrace and live more gracefully within my limitations. So I will never be a good teacher for some students but perhaps I can find a way to keep the situation from souring.”