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Hello fellow travellers, it’s Evi here! I would like to share a part of my journey with you. A journey about beginnings.

Beginnings come with the blessings of fear and failure. A year ago I began my life in Australia. As some of you know, I’m a Dutchie and fall in love with a beautiful Aussie, David Adams.

Along my first year in Melbourne, I developed fears and made a lot of mistakes.
My fears were: talking over the phone and having to spell my full name — I kept mixing up the a’s, e’s and i’s. I often found myself saying, ‘Yes, no worries,’ while not having a clue were people were talking about. I got lost in acronyms. Hill starts. Turning lanes in the CBD. Tail gating. Feeling lost. Real estate agents. Feeling alone. As a Dutchie, I struggled to understand Australian distances; I’m usually too optimistic and used to measuring distances in bicycle time.

My biggest fear was the fear of being a stranger. Being a stranger means reinventing what belonging actually means. I felt ‘gift constipated’ as one of my new friends, Jacques Boulet, described so well. It’s a feeling you get when you can’t contribute your gifts and experience too few friends and too little meaning.
Back in Amsterdam we used to cook and share Indian curries with friends all the time. The problem was when we arrived in Australia we didn’t know anybody.

I found comfort in small gestures such as, ‘How are you darling?’ and ‘Thanks luv.’ I found comfort in driving the ute from work and listening to PBS community radio with the window down. I found comfort in a mission to make our new home cozy. Thank god for op shops!

After a few weeks of feeling sorry for myself, questioning everything and being a pain towards David, it was enough. We realised that it’s only possible to share when you make the effort of inviting people. The only way we could overcome being strangers was to go out there!

We started to make postcards for our new neighbours. In the postcard we shared bits and pieces about our lives. The road was called Mount Pleasant Road, so we decided to name the project the Pleasant People Postcard Project. We made 100 postcards and hand delivered them together with a blank postcard, inviting people to write us something back and share something of their lives with us.

In a way we were embodying our invitation and suddenly we felt: purpose!
‘Purpose is our invisible leader,’ according to Mary Parker Follett, an American social worker and pioneer in the fields of organisational behaviour.

I started to work for an organisation supporting people with a mental health background. The name of the program: Sprout was quite misleading. The management didn’t allow any sort of sprouting at all and even caused serious anxiety problems for staff members; an organisation that says it supports well being and recovery.
A friend suggested this book: Walk Out Walk On by Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze.
Walk-outs describe people who walk out of work and careers that prevent them from contributing as much as they can. They walk out of ideas that are limiting, they walk out of institutions that make them feel small and worthless. But they don’t walk out to disappear they walk out to walk on. They walk on to places where they can make a real contribution, to relationships where they’re respected, to ideas that call on their strengths, to work where they can discover and use their potential.

I felt a sense of relief when I could identify myself as a walk-out.

I am very grateful to Cormac Russell, a huge inspiration and guide. Cormac connected me to this energetic warrior of community spirit, Peter Kenyon. As I’m sure you can understand I felt enormous joy and excitement when meeting Peter and Maria, and finding out about the ABCDE Learning Sites.

‘ABCDE Learning Sites’ is one of those places to walk on to in order to realise and offer our gifts and the energy of ‘Yes!’ and begin to act for what we care about. A place where we can learn from the people who make and shape their own community. A place where we can learn from our Elders and connect to the soil we live, work and grow on. Together we can practice courage, experiment, let go off expectations and control. I keep a little note in my wallet to remind myself:
No matter, try again, fail again, fail better (Samuel Beckett).

Let’s start sharing our beginnings!
If you are in Melbourne and feel like Curry, you know where to find me☺

  • : Evi van der Niet

Comments 4

  1. Hi Evi
    Thanks for your story, it was wonderful to read. I really like how you reached out to people with the postcards project, being self motivated to connect with others is daunting sometimes but so important.
    Hope to see you soon.
    From Sarah

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  2. Thanks for sharing your story Evi! We had our first community BBQ in one of our WA Learning Sites – North Pinjarra. What was so evident was that ‘human element’ in a community that really want to create connections and rebuild that sense of belonging and making a difference. Will definitely submit a blog post on the success of that community driven event!

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