Outrage, Role Models & Positive Acts

I’m outraged.

It’s vital to my sense of well-being that I feel safe. I grew up in Cazenovia, one of upstate New York’s beautiful small villages. No one locked their doors and crime was of the DWI and who-got-stopped-for-speeding variety.

I roam the streets of every place I’ve ever lived in. Uwe and I travel to exotic spots and go exploring with glee. We’re not foolish. You can’t go into situations where you don’t speak the language without being careful and keeping your radar up. We always do our homework before going.

But lately the world feels like a strange, strange place. ISIS openly auctions sex slaves on the Internet. Mothers, daughters, and little girls get ranked by age and attractiveness. On New Year’s Eve in Köln, Germany, one thousand North African men gathered at the main train station for coordinated robbery, sexual assault and in some cases rape. Over 500 women filed police reports. [1]

What does this mean for women? While the police aren’t reporting higher crime statistics overall, the danger is that people will become scared to leave their homes. We’ll alter our habits and our style of life out of fear.

About this time, Claire Deromelaere asked me to take part in a production of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues”. The play depicts women talking about sex and sexuality. Further, it raises funds for V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls.

Claire is one very cool lady. I met her when I joined the Writers in Stuttgart. When she got up to read at our public readings, Claire owned the stage.

Her presence amazes me. Claire is poised and expressive, and her voice projects. She captivates an audience.

I have a beginner’s ego as a writer/reader. I can only get better; there’s nowhere to go but up. I was terrified at first by public readings. I wanted to read like Claire. I studied her, listening and watching. I talked to her about how to be confident (or at least less terrified) on stage.

It was probably inevitable that she got involved in language as performance. Claire left the writers’ group for NEAT, the New English American Theater. “The Vagina Monologues” is her first play as director.

So I’m getting renewed instruction on how to be a better reader from one of my role models. I’m involved in a positive, powerful response to the hate and violence directed at women and children. And I have met an outrageous, wonderful cast of women of all ages and backgrounds, united in the belief that art can change the world. Eve Ensler says it best:

  • Art has the power to transform thinking and inspire people to act
  • Lasting social and cultural change is spread by ordinary people doing extraordinary things
  • Local women best know what their communities need and can become unstoppable leaders
  • One must look at the intersection of race, class, and gender to understand violence against women [3]

I’ll come back to this topic in future posts.

© Jadi Campbell 2016.

NOTES: [1] I want to add that in the days after these attacks, some North African men held up signs in public squares in protest, saying the assaults in no way represent how the majority of foreigners living in Germany regard women.

[2] Click here to read about Stuttgart’s NEAT production of “The Vagina Monologues”: http://neatstuttgart.com/2016/02/05/tvm-opening/

[3] To learn more about how this powerful play is making a positive change in the world:

vday.org and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The Vagina_Monologues

Travel Karma

Travel karma is the bad luck, bad weather, bad room, bad case of Montezuna’s revenge… all the moments that you hope you’ll look back on and laugh about someday. That Jamaica honeymoon your brother booked, and the hotel had a fire? Blame it on travel karma. Our week on Malta in the autumn month that the travel agent swore got only 2-3 days of rain, and we were there for all 5 of them? Oh, yeah. It was travel karma.

There’s nothing you can do except shrug your shoulders, find a comfy café to hang out, and pull out the book you brought along.

Travel karma is other moments, too. It’s serendipity, the magic of being in the right place at the exactly right time. It’s the town festival you stumble into while out exploring. Travel karma is the restaurant with the fixed price menu that turns out to include champagne throughout the meal. It’s when you jump on a train 10 seconds before the doors close to leave.

Every so often travel karma gives you a heady dose of both moments…

We booked a charter flight to India.

Where we were headed
Where we were headed

I don’t always sleep well on the eve of a trip, and slept especially poorly this night. The next morning we were on a very early ICE train to Frankfurt to get our flight to India. The ICE is a sleek, fast train that makes few stops and great time.

I hauled my train pass out of my travel purse out of my day back for the train attendant to check. Tired, I reminded myself that I would need to put the pass back in the purse and the purse back in the day pack.

I didn’t.

We got off the train and headed up into the airport. A few horrified minutes later I realized my purse was right where I’d left it, on the seat of a train now heading to Amsterdam… containing my passport. And my credit cards. And my train pass. And $$s. And €€s, all the ready money I was carrying as we weren’t sure how easy it would be to find cash machines.

We could get more cash in the airport and use Uwe’s credit cards, but I wasn’t going anyplace unless I got my passport back. The helpful folks at DB (Deutsches Bahn) contacted the train and they checked: my purse still lay on the seat where I’d left it! The problem was that the next scheduled stop for the ICE wouldn’t be until Köln, several hours up the tracks. DB would hold my purse for me there. There was no way I’d have my passport back in time for us to make our plane.

It was too late to do anything but rebook the flight to India. If I said “Uwe, I’m soooo sorry!” once, I said it 100 times. Man, did I feel awful. But – it was travel karma.

Uwe climbed on the next train heading back to Stuttgart (looking a whole lot less happy than he had early that morning) and I caught a train to Köln. The DB personnel hadn’t been able to report if my purse still contained my valuables. My passport was stamped with the resident alien visa that allowed me to remain in Germany. And without my passport I couldn’t head back to America to see my country, or my family, or go anywhere, for that matter. I felt oddly vulnerable. This situation was bad, and the more I worried about it, the worse it became.

As I sat on the train I bargained with the travel gods: “Just leave me the passport.”

When we reached Köln I realized I hadn’t eaten anything since supper the night before. I wasn’t ready yet for good/bad news about my purse. I bought myself a sandwich and a coffee and stalled for five minutes. Then it was time… I headed to Lost & Found and told someone my story. Of course, I no longer had any ID to prove who I was. He asked me to describe the purse and what was in it.  I flinched inside as I told him.

The nice man vanished into the back and returned with my purse. “Go ahead and check that everything’s there,” he suggested. I know my hands shook as I unzipped it and looked.

Not a pfennig had gone missing. I shrieked Ya-hoo! and he laughed. Then I said thank you and left the little office.

I went directly to the flower vendor kitty-corner to Lost & Found and bought the largest bouquet of white blooms they offered. I marched with the bouquet back into the Lost & Found office. The employees all looked up astonished when they saw me again.

My voice quavered. “These are for all of you. It’s not enough just to say, ‘Thank you for doing your jobs’. It’s so great to know that there are still honest, helpful people in the world!” Nonplussed, they accepted the flowers, but everyone was smiling.

The train trip back to Stuttgart from Köln took 3 hours. The next charter flight to India left 3 days later. When we got finally got there I had one of the most amazing trips of my life. I probably used up a lot of good travel karma on that day I had to journey to Köln, but I hope I’ve added to my karma account since then. And I will never, ever forget my belongings on a train going anywhere. That’s one lesson I’ve learned!

© Jadi Campbell 2013. Photos © Uwe Hartmann. More pictures from India and of Uwe’s photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

17800_Ind_04_04_032
En route
Hubli
6-8th century Jain, Hindu, and Buddhist cave temples, Badami.
Nandi Purmina festival Hampi, India
Nandi Purmina festival
Hampi
Goa
Goa