Sunday, 29 August 2010

Eco-city is a stepping stone

My time with the council has been a major and influential milestone in my life. In fact it has felt like home. Waitakere has taught me how to be more aware of my values and my daily behaviours. It has taught me that one person can make a difference when they are supported by the many.

Prior to taking up my appointment here I’d been battling Manukau City Council for what I considered to be environmental vandalism in the name of commercial development. I won a battle but lost the war. However it identified my value set. I knew what mattered and that one person can influence outcomes. That fits with what I’ve seen at Waitakere. Caring for people and the environment, looking for ways for residents, the environment and business to co-exist happily together, colleagues supporting colleagues.

Waitakere has been so different to the toxic environments I have worked in. Staff don’t go around stabbing each other in the back all day or resenting other people’s successes. Instead they encourage celebration of those successes. There’s no tall –poppy here; colleagues and managers are delighted whenever we do something well. How refreshing.

I’ve been given a priceless gift during my time here. I’m allowed to use my imagination and passion to create new things that haven’t been done quite that way anywhere else. My ideas are valued and even budget put aside to implement them. That’s a truly liberating behaviour from the council. Be innovative, work together, be bold, speak positively and do what you say you will; these liberating behaviours are truly displayed every day by my colleagues and managers. That’s priceless and certainly makes me feel comfortable, at home.

Of course, there comes a time when the fledgling has to leave the nest. I’m leaving ‘home’ this September but I can see where my battle against one council and my development and support within another have provided stepping stones to a much bigger opportunity. I am proud, privileged and just plain delighted to be able to take my passion for the environment and sustainability along with my experience of working for our eco city to France.

I'm moving to France. I've found a country and an employer who care about sustainability and our planet. I can take our eco-city principles and let them loose where they are appreciated. That’s liberating too, a good home for me. The work involves a new website, communications, education at an intellectual level and links to international partners.

I've loved working at Waitakere City Council, even on some of the frustrating stuff; my happiest job, ever which can never be forgotten. Waitakere has given me a stepping stone to the world and the fulfillment of my dream to live and work in France for the benefit of people and the planet.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

What is freedom?

I'm experimenting with aspects of freedom right now. On Thursday I resigned from my job at Waitakere City. On Friday Stephen and I got officially divorced. On Saturday I threw out lots of stuff that had been important to me. Today I held a garage sale and Laura let go of things that used to be important to her.

Ironically, I went to the movies this afternoon and saw Toy Story 3 which is all about folks leaving home to start a new life and giving away their stuff that used to matter to them. Boy, did that strike a cord. I seem to be freeing myself from all sorts of attachments- some precious like my few friends and especially my lovely daughter Laura, material things such as my belongings, my job, my garden, home and country and language and culture.

I know this is the right thing to do. I cannot do what I will do (whatever that is) encumbered. I need to be flexible and available to follow what I must. My security must come from within me more than ever before. I've even let go of my need to for financial security. Changing my life to this extent has been extremely expensive; the trip to France earlier this year, the qualifications, my return, insurance and moving personal belongings with only my own resources.

I have no idea what will happen and that doesn't worry me, much. Stagnation is far more damaging to me than the challenge of change. Maybe that's why my life has been one of constant change even though I've yearned for the sort of stability and comfort other people seem to experience so easily. Well, that's not my story. It'll be the biggest thriller and mystery to discover what happens to me as the chapters unfold. Join me.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The deed is done

Today I officially resigned from my job with Waitakere City, sad but necessary due to the farce that is the 'super city' creation. I spoke to a number of staff who were supportive and pleased for me but it was heartbreaking to hear their stories of worry and hurt caused by the transition process they are going through. Many still, after 18 months of waiting, have no idea if they will get a job. Many of them are very concerned about the 'fire' they are trying to jump to. What sort of culture will it be if they are being treated like this, already?

Auckland was dysfunctional before but Waitakere wasn't. To destroy something that much of the world is racing to embrace seems crazy and irresponsible to me. I'm referring to Waitakere's principles of putting people and the environment first and working with businesses to ensure what we do is more sustainable and less harmful. I'm seeing no genuine evidence of this being the way greater Auckland is heading.

Lucky me to be leaving NZ. I have no respect for the current situation, only immense respect for the people I have been working for and with for four years. I really hope Aucklanders get off their bums and vote this time. Giving up or being apathetic serves only the political bullies and players.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Sell, sell, sell

Laura and I are heavily into it. Selling my possessions on Trade Me. Some things seem to be of no interest to anyone and others go quite quickly. I'm managing to accept the empty spaces and lack of facilites, after all. I coped with the primitive conditions in Plelauff earlier this year.

I have no ideas what my little bedsit in Rambouilllet will be like; very small, I think. Will there be room for my few personal effects when they arrive? It might be touch and go. Never mind, I'm keen to get on with it but it's still important for me to let go of my NZ life gently.

Laura is still nervous about not having a secure full-time job so she can move out of home. That's understandable. I wish the supermarket would give her some real certainty not just verbal comments. There are people who will look out for her but I know she wants to manage things herself. That's admirable but sometimes you have to seek assistance for a short time.

I remember that when I left home I couldn't support myself financially so my boyfriend paid the rent for a furnished flat in central Christchurch. I was really poor but with a little help I managed and I've survived ever since. Not often easily but, hey, look at me now. I'm like an 18 year old again, little in the way of belongings but without ties now, even less than I had when I was 18.

When I was born my surname was FREE. Even my first name, Frances, means FREE but I've always felt anything but, until now. Now I see my first name as being a signpost to FRANCE.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Houston, we have lift-off!

I hadn't been at work all that long today before I received a phone call on my mobile. It was an 04 number, Wellington. Could it be? At the end of that call I was punching the air. Yyeeesssss! The embassy had rung and confirmed approval for my work visa. I will receive it in my passport in 10 working days.

So it's really certain now...I will be living and working 47kms outside Paris for the next year. I will make new friends, work my way further towards bilingualism, discover the intricacies of a very different culture, stretch my intellect, discover new places, maybe even explore new countries.

How awesome! I'll deal with the sadness of leaving things behind and somehow I'll deal with the separation from daily life with Laura. I'll deal with my fragile financial situation and those moments of loneliness in France. I'll stay open to what I can be and do and feel. I hope I can be of service to people and our planet and fill my life with love.

I'll give this opportunity my best effort.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The simpler life

While I was working from home today the packers popped in to upload my personal effects.The guys didn't take long. Now my things are on their way to France. I'll see them again some time after I arrive there.

I look around my home and the reality certainly is setting in. In particular, what's left I cannot keep, no matter how much attachment I might have to it. It's sad. I can't keep my record collection and there are some great albums in it, like Thriller. I don't want to sell them but they are heavy, what can I do?

Last night Laura had some success on Trade Me selling some of my furniture and a camera. My seachests are beautiful pieces of wood, in rimu and macrocarpa and will not be available in France. Well, I'm learning not to be materialistic.

I've kept some bellydance costumes, my DVDs and CDs, some clothes and collectables, a dinnerset and some china, my guitar and my violin. That's it. My second oldest possession is my violin. I acquired it when I was nearly 11 years old and played it regularly until I left high school aged 17. I've pottered around on it only a handful of times but I've always intended to take it up again so I can play in a chamber group or orchestra.

And my oldest possession? My teddy with the tummy button that still plays twinkle twinkle little star, after 55 years.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

A retro moment

Off work with nasty headaches today I allowed myself to think back to my trip to France earlier this year. In particular Marseille. It's an interesting city but not one I'd want to live in, I think. My friend Valerie told me not to take my camera out with me because of the crime and pickpockets. Apparently wearing a camera would have made me a sitting duck for theft or assault.

Yes, there were definitely some seedy areas. We avoided the dangerous suburbs and took the little tourist train to look at the cathdedral de Notre Dame de la Garde. It's beautiful but we only had time to look around the outside, see the fabulous panorama that is the Marseille coastline with Chateau d'If, Vieux Port, the two forts at the entrance.

I tried an interesting Provencal rose wine- it was golden rather than pink, tasted OK though. Reliving these memories was important today because the whole complicated process of moving to France has not been fun. So refocussing on what I love about the country and what I'd like to relive and discover in the future was good therapy for me.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Where's the upside?

OK, enough already. Last week it was hassles with the french embassy. Now it's hassles, major hassles, from my bank. They want to translate my work contract in France from french into english. Well, they had better not charge me for such lunacy. Apparently rental income for one's property is not enough to keep them happy, they have to delve into the rest of my business as well. I am not impressed and it's taking days and days. Is there a bank out there that appreciates my impeccable personal integrity?

Moving on my small scale is a nightmare. There's no company uplifting all my belongings in one go and paying for the move. Sorting through everything into three piles seems to be my life right now.
Pile one (the biggest) is everything I can't keep in my life.
Pile two consists of personal effects to move to France. Stuff I need, a few things I really want. No furniture.
Pile three is what will fit into my suitcase and weighs only 20 kg.

I have to be very organised and very specific about these separate piles because if I get it wrong I can't fix it up. The expense of all this is rather overwhelming for my resources. As soon as the packers have left on Saturday I need to start concentrating on Trade Me. I desperately need money.

Changing my life to this extent is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. It's not all falling into place. But I can't go back. I won't go back. I want the life I've worked for in France.