SUE JACKSON Therapist | Writer | Photographer | Activist

An avid blogger for the last fifteen years, I believe in the power of the word to change the world. I have participated in, and reported on, a range of protests during this period, including the successful East-West Link campaign and, more recently, our wonderful, home-grown Extinction Rebellion (XR). If you believe, like I do, that it is time for ordinary people to rise up in defence of the planet, I encourage you to explore this blog, share it with your networks, and – of course – take action.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Minority Report

When we were in Cuba in May I was thrilled to luck on the 9th International Conference on Organic and Sustainable Agriculture that just happened to be on in Havana in one of the two weeks we were there. We even managed to squeeze into a booked-out field trip to the urban farms of Havana, which I had been longing to visit. (For more about our wonderful experiences with the food gardeners of Havana check out Earth Garden No 161 Spring Sept - Nov 2012 at your newsagents or via )
There was only one problem. In Cuba, expect the unexpected. Despite the promise of an English interpreter, we found ourselves interpreter-less, and Peter and I turned out to be the only non native-speakers in the group. We spent a lot of time looking on as the people around us from Costa Rica, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina and Cuba connected effortlessly with each other. We tried hard, our Spanish got a real work-out, but we missed heaps of the information and sadly, most of the jokes.
And glancing around during one talk (below), I realised something. As a Westerner, I am so used to being part of the privileged majority, but for once that wasn't the case. I was in the minority, on the outside looking in. Which was probably a very good experience for me to have. 
But it made me think of another reason why I love our Spanish class.  

Me in front row, concentrating hard on Spanish

Cynthia (front row in middle), Ramon (behind her) and class at Cynthia's Farewell last week

Because our teacher Cynthia is Mexican, we - or perhaps I should just speak for myself - I, have ended up feeling more than a little Mexican myself. Helping me to struggle along in Spanish, she has managed to introduce me to Mexican food, TV programmes, slang, popular culture, politics and even bloopers. Do you know that if you say you are 'embarasada' in Spanish it doesn't mean you are embarrassed as you might expect, but pregnant? So watch out!
I've found that trying to speak the language myself with a native speaker has introduced me to Mexican culture in a way that no amount of informed translation by someone else or even travel in Mexico would necessarily do.
So I am sad to report that Cynthia has decided to return home. She leaves us in the capable hands of Ramon, a young writer from Venezuela, and I look forward to soon feeling a little bit Venezuelan.
But in the meantime, I would like to say to Cynthia: 'Adios, mi amiga, y muchas gracias.'

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Life on Mars

Wednesday night's Spanish class is one of the highlights of my week, or perhaps I should confess - my life. That's when at a local Neighbourhood House I meet with a divergent group of intriguing people, with whom I share a passion for Spanish conversation and Spanish-speaking countries. 
Undoubtedly, an important factor that keeps us coming throughout the depths of winter is the input from our wonderful teacher, Cynthia Granados  (*CYNAMööN* 

Cynthia performing ritual - MONARCA - at Federation Square

Cynthia is a Mexican performance artist. For the last few years she has been living, working and studying in Melbourne, while hoping desperately to be allowed to settle here. But things are not looking good. Unfortunately Cynthia's visa requires her to obtain permanent sponsored employment in a job that can't be done by a local. And in the area of arts administration, which she loves and where her qualifications lie, there are few opportunities.
We don't want to lose her and she is exactly the sort of young, independent-thinking, talented person Australia needs. And she's lots of fun too. So if you know of any job leads, please contact Cynthia.
One of the fun things she encourages is zany themes for our discussions. Simple conversations - like menu analysis - the stuff of 'conventional' Spanish classes are not for us. We might not be able to order lunch in Spanish, but we have no trouble regaling the waiters with our opinions on global politics or Michael Jackson. Or for that matter, on the topic for this week's class: life on other planets.
That topic has turned out to be easy for me. I know exactly what life on other planets is like. People watch football on TV, eat pizza, get blown about walking on the beach before gratefully returning home to bask in front of an open fire. How can I be so certain? - you may well ask.
Well, last weekend, in preparation for class, I undertook some galactic explorations of my own. We headed for Venus Bay, travelling along Jupiter Boulevard, took a left into Saturn Parade, before alighting in the:- 

I've always known that Melbourne is the centre of the universe, but I had no idea that there were so many planets orbiting around us.

But getting back to Cynthia - as you can see from her photo above, Cynthia clearly hails from Venus. I just hope she gets to spend her future life here on Mars with us.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Now for something completely different:D(ance) Day

Despite the fact that I have always been remarkably wooden on the dance floor, in my dreams I spin and slide and leap through space, exactly like Jennifer Beals' character in Flashdance. Knowing about my dream, eight years ago Peter bought us dance lessons as a birthday present. And it changed our lives.
Nearly every week we learn meringue, cha cha, salsa, quick step, waltz, jive, fox trop, tango or rhumba from our wonderful, and fortunately supremely patient, teacher, Hooman Ebadi (
Over that time at any social function and at the slightest opportunity, one glass of wine and we're up boogying.
Learning Flamenco in Spain

But there has been a problem. Despite all our lessons it has been hard for me to relax and go with the flow. As you can see from the photo above, even experimenting with flamenco in its home town of Sevilla, I look anything but relaxed.
Plus it took me a full 3 years to give up trying to lead (in dance circles 'ladies' are perpetual followers) which perhaps comes as no surprise. And despite the fact that during our lessons there is no disputing who is in charge - Hooman - as soon as we are dancing unchaperoned, I've been inclined to step into Hooman's role. 'Put your weight on your left foot, 'Remember to hold your arm up,' 'You're meant to lead with your torso' - my 'helpful suggestions' to Peter have been as relentless as any beat. Not surprisingly, we have often ended up stressed or even not speaking on the dance floor.
But I'm delighted to report that those dismal days are finally over.

Hooman with partner Dalena (not Peter and I as you might have assumed)

Last Sunday Hooman hosted one of his regular get-togethers, where some students dance for medals while others, like us, just dance socially. For the first time ever and for no discernible reason, I barked out no instructions, didn't care when we made mistakes, laughed lots and generally had a wonderful time. I looked nothing like Jennifer Beals and I didn't care. Somehow the penny had dropped. Finally I realised something - dancing is just for fun - and it only took me 8 years.