An Invitation to Mauritius

Traveling is always an amazing opportunity to learn and grow. I like to travel – but I prefer travel with a purpose. Almost two years ago I visited Slovenia in order to present a paper at a conference – and to learn about Slovenia and Slovenians. This year I had the opportunity to travel in order to teach and to learn as well.

Recently, we visited the nation of Mauritius thanks to a generous invitation from our good friends, Marcel and Marceline, who live there. Where is Mauritius you might ask? Mauritius is east of Madagascar – the large island off the eastern coast of Africa. Go east of Madagascar to Mauritius – a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Traveling to Mauritius requires two very long plane rides. The first half of the trip is an eight-hour plane ride to Paris (or Amsterdam) and the second is a twelve hour flight to Mauritius.

Situated in the tropics, near the equator, Mauritius was just beginning its winter season when we were there – end of March, early April. Nevertheless, it was quite hot and humid by our standards – although this was relative. It was perceived as cooler by those who live there, compared to the even hotter summer temps.

Our hosts live in the area of Rose-Hill outside of Port Louis, the capital city. This is the northwestern area of the island. Breadfruit, sour sop (tastes like a passion fruit, a very large passion fruit!), bananas and more grew in the courtyard area of their house. In addition, Marceline created a beautiful container garden along the stairway up to their front door.

Picture1Picture2 Come along with me as we explore the country of Mauritius.

You may also like Jerusalem by Night or Welcome to Switzerland!

Mauritius Embracing Diversity

Mauritius, 2017

Survival Requirement: Embracing Diversity

Dr. Roxanne Meshar, M.Div., D.Min.

Thank you for your invitation and generous hospitality! Also I’d like to thank Mary’s Pence (maryspence.org) for their endorsement letter and ongoing support of my work. It is an honor for me to be here with all of you.

My professional background is posted here.

In order for participants to more easily view or translate my presentation (using a smart phone), the presentation slide text follows.

Creator Spirit

Help us respond to our call to be members of one family.

Guide us to constant peaceful concern for sisters and brothers throughout the world.

Make us mindful of the needs of those who endure the injustices of war, hunger, poverty,

that we may live in harmony and unity with others.

Renew our commitment to our global family.

Beyond Borders, Catholic Relief Services

 

There is no “objective” reporting or writing

  • Every article, book, report has a point of view – cultural, historical, linguistic, geographical or psychological
  • The question:  is the bias disclosed?

 

Whose story
and how we tell it

  • History of American First Nations
  • History of chattel slavery in North America
  • Who decides? Who benefits?

 

Learn how to identify events and systems

  • Creating a system of under privilege and over privilege in the U.S.
    • Representative government benefits elites
    • Pay for education with property taxes
  • Always ask, “Who benefits?”

 

Wealth transfer and poverty creation in our time

  • Inequality in pay creates generational poverty
  • Charity – who benefits?
  • Unregulated capitalism allows unethical businesses to monopolize industries, create laws for their own benefit

 

What to do?

  • Help build awareness and empathy “muscles”
  • Develop and enrich our own personhood through engagement with those who are different

 

Exercises can build diversity awareness and empathy

  • Identify our own social location
  • “Simon Says” or My View games
  • Games can teach values of sharing, cooperation, inclusion

 

Embracing diversity is not optional – it is required for our survival

  • Diversity creates cultural richness
  • Increases our curiosity about others
  • Builds awareness, empathy, resilience
  • Develops our personhood, humanity
  • Is a critical survival skill

 

Embracing diversity:

  • Informed by Christian Doctrine of Trinity
  • Political, subversive, dangerous
  • Yet essential for our survival and the survival of our planet

 

Workshop

  • Demonstration of fast, easy exercises for all ages
  • Helps to develop empathy and compassion “muscles” for life

Thank you. Merci.

The Workshop: Here you will see demonstrations of fun, quick and easy exercises that help build compassion and empathy (collected over the years and around the web) –

Simon Says uses the childhood game of the same name to show that not everyone begins life with the same advantages.

My View allows us to learn from points of view different from our own.

Stand Where You Stand – for now. Our opinions and ideas are always changing.

Describing our social location reminds us that our point of view is quite limited!

Popular games can also be a source of learning. Prophetopoly (by Jeff Dols, Monopoly in reverse), the game of Life and others can be played with the same rules, but the objectives are changed so that all are cared for. This helps build cooperation, compassion, empathy.

Slice of Slovenia

A Slice of Slovenia

Slovenia was not a country I expected to visit, but thanks to a grant from Mary’s Pence I attended the international educators’ conference “To Teach is to Build” at the Biotechnical Center in Naklo, Slovenia in October. Educators participated from Austria, Italy, Germany, Norway, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain and the United States.

My paper entitled “Curriculum Development: Political, Subversive, Dangerous,” explored the social justice implications of designing school curricula. It also included fast, easy classroom exercises to help students develop more compassion and empathy. After submitting my paper, the conference organizer Professor Sandra Žvagen, invited me to be a plenary speaker and conduct a workshop. Meeting with other educators and attending their workshops taught me so much!

The Biotechnical Center is a holistic school that fosters curiosity and a safe space for over 600 students from various backgrounds – both rural and urban. Students can learn how to run a dairy farm in a way that is organic and cares for the environment. Other students focus on forest, wildlife and wild animal management. Many of the products students make such as cheeses, dairy products, produce, juices, local teas, floral arrangements and more, are for sale in their store and used in the school’s cafeteria.

Andreja Ah?in, principal of the Biotechnical Center with twenty years of education experience at the school, explained that she and her staff worked to design a curriculum that fosters a holistic integration of the student. This means integrating students’ values with their education and life work while understanding its impact on the environment and the community. This is the same reason I teach theology – to help students explore these fundamental questions; Who am I? What is my purpose? How will I make the world a better place?

My experience also included meeting with instructors and with students in the classroom. English class students were designing their own crossword puzzles, art students were using refurbished typewriters to create amazing pictures with meaningful words and other students were baking cakes and breads to use at school events.

Demonstrating their reputation for hospitality, school faculty drove us to the Lake Bled area in northern Slovenia near the Alps. We toured a green hotel, Garden Village, where all the landscaping was beautiful, edible and used in the hotel! Teachers Sandra Žvagen and Simona Zabukovec took me hiking in scenic southern Slovenia by the Adriatic Sea. Tina Križnar, who oversees adult education at the school, gave me a tour of the capital city of Ljubljana, existing since Roman times. Prior to working at the Biotechnical Center Tina was a tour guide for Russian and English speaking tourists so she knew well the city and its history.

The conference was an unexpected and amazing experience of another people, country and culture. Thank you, “hvala” in Slovenian, to the Biotechnical Center, conference participants and to Mary’s Pence for making it possible.

What Can Women Do To Resist Patriarchy?

Patriarchy is the primary source of poverty. Since those struggling with poverty are primarily women and children, it behooves us to ask what we as women can do to end the patriarchal system that causes so much poverty.