Yesterday I attended a conference in Glasgow called “Making Scotland the First ACE-Aware Nation”.

ACEs, if you are not yet ACE-aware, are Adverse Childhood Experiences and if you have four or more, you run a greater risk of a range of health conditions as well as certain addictions and incarceration. I learned a lot and was left with more to think about.

But that’s not what I wanted to blog about.

I was alone in an audience of 2000 people which gave me plenty of scope to observe how the mainly Scottish crowd interacted. This is my reflection:

I talked to several people at different stages and everybody was perfectly friendly. I smiled at people and they smiled back. I watched over someone’s bag while she was at the toilet, for somene else, I found out at which table we were meant to register. I chatted to my neighbour in the auditorium and helped someone find her way on the train. To me, these interactions ended a little abruptly. There was no effusive ending, as would always be the case in Colombia.  The people for whom I had done little favours thanked me and returned to their concerns.

The interactions were transactions not micro-relationships. I felt a little pang.

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It’s July!

And that means I’ve finished all my travels and talks for now.

I’ve had an amazing three months travelling the length and breadth of the country, even getting to fly over it a couple of times.

I got to see the Callanish Stones…

…and the Avebury ones.

I caught up with old friends…

…and made new ones.

And everything was green and lush and lovely.

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May Dates

Latin Link Scottish Inspire! Conference Friday 4th – Saturday, 6th May, Atholl Centre, Pitlochry.

Greyfriars Free Church, Inverness, Ladies’ Meeting Tuesday 8th May.

Kyleakin Church of Scotland, Isle of Skye 11am, Sunday 14th May.

Elgol Church of Scotland, 3pm, Sunday 14th May.

Free Church Women for Mission, Glasgow City Free Church, 2pm, Saturday 19th May.

Ferintosh Free Chuch, after the evening service Sunday 20th May.

Free North Free Church Sunday 27th May.

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The other direction

I have been back in Scotland a month today and I’m ready to make some observations about this reverse culture shock everybody promised me I’d feel. It’s not been too overwhelming yet but here is one thing that has struck me quite forcibly: the way we do greetings and farewells. So cold! So informal! So little physical contact!

I didn’t notice it immediately because of course, I hugged everyone I know, the first time I saw them again. But as time has gone on, I realize that is wearing off. And I’ve been observing other people. Only if it is a very formal situation, do people shake hands. And on leaving, they do NOTHING. Not a thing.

In Colombia, I would, at an absolutely minimum, greet every single person at any gathering I attended with a handshake, and most likely, kiss almost everyone on the right cheek (so lean left when you meet a Colombian). And I would do the same on leaving. In fact, if I said goodbye to someone and for some reason, we talked a little longer, I would say goodbye again, even if that was seconds later.

We are not cold, just not expressive, as I explained over and over again to my Colombian friends, but now I can see why they might think that!

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Overheard at the swimming pool

From their voices, they were eight or nine years old, but I didn’t see them.

Speaker A: I’m not wearing my school socks, look. I hate my school socks.

Speaker B: So do I! They’re so annoying.

A: I’m putting all my clothes in my bag.

B: I’m not. My bag is SO small.

A: So you and Tanya are like related?

B: Yeah.

A: Because you are the same religion?

B: Yeah.

A: I don’t really know about religion because I don’t have one…People who have a religion have to respect people who don’t have one.

B: And people who don’t have one, have to respect those who do.

A: Yeah. It’s the same for everyone.

PS I’m in Scotland, lying low for just now, but this was too good not to share.

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Great questions

It’s always very interesting to hear people’s questions in response to the talks I do in churches.

Sometimes I incorporate the answers into later versions of my talk. One example is “How do churches manage to get children to come along to the Vive Kids Children’s Clubs?” I say that in most cases there are scores, if not hundreds of children in the local community and most seem thrilled to come along to an event being run especially for them. The little joke I make is that you just need to shake a tree and 10 children will fall out of it. (Of course we don’t really do this!).

But last week I was asked two excellent questions by the same person that left me thinking. There questions were:

1.What has been the impact of the conflict on the church in Colombia?

2.What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Colombian church?

I thought these were very useful questions for any context.

For example we could ask: What has been the impact of the recession (or the refugee crisis) on the Scottish church? What are the strengths and weakness of your local church? Or your denomination?

I don’t feel I had very coherent answers to the questions but the questions themselves were great!

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Global village

Recently I got the opportunity to speak to a group of children aged around ten about the life of a displaced child in Colombia.

I explained how armed groups force people off their land and talked about the poor conditions displaced people often live in.

After my talk, one ten-year-old boy came up to me and asked if the members of the armed group had been radicalized.

I explained, “No, they don’t have any particular ideology, they are probably motivated by greed as much as anything else.”

Afterwards I thought:

1) How good to see a child trying to make sense of the world in terms of the categories (e.g. radicalization) that he knows.

2) How sad that a ten-year-old growing up a peaceful country has to engage with such things.

But then, when I was ten, I worried about nuclear war.

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