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A story of change, Part II

Thursday, September 24, 2015 by Marianne Elliott

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This is the second part of a the story I told at the Extraordinary Tales event recently. You can read the first part here.

So – as Kim Hill put it – I walked off my divorce in Africa – what next?

The walk ended in Jerusalem, where I stayed in a hostel run by a Palestinian family. They made a very strong impression on me. Perhaps because I was recovering from my own world having been flipped upside down. I was – to be clear – a hot mess at this point. A train wreck. And yet, they took me under their wing.

One day the grandfather – who spent his days sitting in the courtyard under the olive tree being waited on hand and foot – invited me to go with him to visit relatives in the West Bank.

I accepted his invitation and we set off. To get to his family, we had to cross through Israeli check points. This man, who I had only ever seen as the patriach, being honoured and waited on, was forced to get out of the car and kneel on the side of the road while teenage Israeli soldiers pointed guns at him and yelled.

It was one of those moments in life where you think:

What on earth is going on here?”

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 10.42.35 amWhich is why two years later I was back, living and working in Gaza working for the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights – so that’s where the long walk ended and where it took me next.

Gaza was beautiful. Heart breaking. Rage-inducing. Like many women, I didn’t know how to handle anger. What did I do with it? I drank, like most of other humanitarian and human rights workers in Gaza. I drank and partied and wrote furious reports, and bottled a lot of it up.

One day an Israeli policeman tried to stop me from passing in the street and I punched him.

In that instant I thought: ‘It’s probably time to leave. I need to go and do something with this anger before I cause more trouble.’

So I came back to New Zealand – and fell apart.

I had no idea I was a mess, I thought it was all normal. It coincided with my younger sister going through a very tragic bereavement, so we were both messes in different ways and for different reasons. So we moved into a house in Piha – surrounded by trees and would wake up every morning and play Bic Runga singing ‘Something Good’ and get what we needed to give another day a go. I got a job as a fairy. I would dress in a fairly costume, with wings and a wand, and go to children’s birthday parties to tell fairy tales. I discovered that I still knew how to laugh, and even do magic.

In my first falling apart I turned outwards, I relied on myself, I walked the length of Africa.

In my second falling apart I turned homewards, I leaned on others, I walked Piha beach.

I discovered that I wasn’t alone. That I had a family that still loved me. A little sister who I could trust and rely on, and a country that felt like home. A country I cared about enough to want to change some things here too.

More of this story coming soon. If you have a story you need to tell, but you’re not sure how to tell it – consider joining Laurie Wagner and I in Alameda October 3-4 for: Forbidden Territory: Telling stories that could change the world

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